‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ returns to save universe

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This is yet another busy year for the blockbuster superhero moneymaking machine. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was preceded by “Logan” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” which will be followed by the new “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man,” “Justice League” and “Thor.” Or, as fanboys say, “What, no Deadpool?”

Anyone can save the galaxy once, so the Guardians return to do it all again. Led by the wise cracking Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), as an “Obi-Wannabe-Kenobi,” and dubs himself Star-Lord, the crew consists of his green-faced love interest Gamora (Zoe Saldana), muscleman Drax (Dave Bautista) and voices of Bradley Cooper as the sarcastic Rocket Racoon and Vin Diesel as Baby Groot, some sort of anthropomorphic vegetation.

Set to the backdrop of the 80s “Awesome Mixtape Volume Two,” the story flashes back to 1980 when Peter’s mom and dad first met in Missouri. Then, fast forward to 2014 as the Guardians are traversing the outer reaches of the cosmos enjoying the company of their recently connected “family,” (capitalizing on the success of the “Fast & Furious” family?).

Writer-director James Gunn delivers this sequel as much more than a tongue-in-cheek space odyssey. It’s an irreverent, self-aware parody that features a seamlessly multi-racial, multi-being cast of characters bent on having some fun. More important, they bring the audience in on the hilarity as they shoot more one-line zingers than missiles.

In this intergalactic world, there is plenty of CGI action, romance and drama, but with such big budget excitement and marvelous supporting cast, the success or failure of this franchise is entrusted to the wit and charm of newfound superstar Chris Pratt. In the leading role, he doesn’t seem to grasp the weight of carrying such a blockbuster.

Part of Pratt’s charm is he seems to mock the superhero nonsense with a wink and grin at every turn. His only interests seem to be saving the universe and having a great time, not necessarily in that order. In this episode, the “family” tries to unravel the mystery of Peter’s true father, Ego (Kurt Russell) and his spectacular but mysterious planet, which consists of a trillion VFX polygons, possibly the largest visual effect ever made on film.

This adventure introduces opportunities for foes from the original to become friends and allies. Meanwhile, fanboy favorites from the classic comics join the action as the Marvel universe continues to expand. Give Gunn credit for introducing the mainstream audience to so many “unknown” characters, now featured on toys and fast food sport cups.

In the original, Pratt had to lose 60 pounds for the role. This time around, he had stayed in shape and was ready to go. Drax makeup process has been reduced from four hours to 90 minutes. In volume two of the 80’s soundtrack, the “video” of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” is worth the price of admission alone. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” takes on new meaning and we had never quite read that much into “Brandy” by Looking Glass, yikes!

Although Groot has now been reduced to Baby Groot, Diesel continues to squeak out the high-pitched voice. Gunn created an English version of Groot’s lines for each situation, in order for the proper inflections for “I am Groot.” Similarly, SoCal teens understand how “Dude” can mean so many things, depending on how you say it.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is 136 minutes and rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, violence, language, and suggestive content. These gallant goofballs are ridiculous and silly in this space Western disguised as an intergalactic adventure. The swashbuckling action is wacky and even cartoonish, but usually thrilling and even exhilarating.

The Guardians will return next year in “Avengers: Infinity War.” There are five scenes in the ending credits, so hang around after the big finish. It was noted, “No raccoons or tree creatures were harmed during the making of this movie. However the same cannot be said for the handlers of the raccoons and tree creatures.” Speaking for intergalactic adventures, shouldn’t hemorrhoids be called asteroids? Just wondering.

Ron’s Rating: B    Leigh’s Rating: B

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Ron & Leigh Martel