Gifts from "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special” we want year-round

Bring us the (Kevin) Bacon and more from this Christmastime romp

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published November 27, 2022 9:00PM (EST)

Pom Klementieff as Mantis in "The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special" (Marvel Studios/Jessica Miglio)
Pom Klementieff as Mantis in "The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special" (Marvel Studios/Jessica Miglio)

My initial reaction to "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" was one of disappointment, that the Disney+ short wasn't a classic song and dance variety show, similar to the Johnny Cash Christmas Shows of yore, or the Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show of 2019. But by being a tightly plotted, mini movie of under an hour, the show made it up to me. Thankfully, it doesn't skimp on the songs, either. 

The "Holiday Special" follows Marvel's other recent holiday short, Halloween's black and white mini "Werewolf by Night." As The Verge writes, "The MCU has gone ahead and turned the most wonderful time of the year into another piece of its complex and ever-expanding narrative" and though the story is self-contained, it likely also functions as a prequel to the next full-length film. 

Directed by James Gunn, the holiday short starts with Chris Pratt's Peter Quill mourning the loss of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña). Desperate to cheer him up, Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) seek to recreate for the human a Christmas an Earth holiday they know very little about. Fortunately for us the viewers, they think it should heavily involve Kevin Bacon, a favorite of Peter's. The two set off on a quest to bring home the Bacon in time for Christmas morning.

From the musical accompaniment to the pairing of Drax and Mantis, here are some gifts from "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" that keep on giving.  


The multi-calendar

Is there Christmas in space? It's complicated. The show's addressing of the holiday is reminiscent of the "Star Wars" theology debate. As my child with an eidetic memory for all things sci-fi would tell you: Han Solo uttered "I'll see you in hell," in "The Empire Strikes Back" and other mentions of "hell" and "godspeed" feed fuel to the fire of some kind of "Star Wars" god.


"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" tries to skirt this by casually mentioning a multi-calendar which shows that it's almost Christmas on Earth. What is this multi-calendar? Is it available in a planner? It's that time of year when we're shopping for organizational tools to start the next year off right, and I for one would like to mark all the holidays in the galaxy in 2023. Some of them have to involve delicious food. 


Drax and Mantis together

The majority of the short consists of Drax and Mantis pal-ing around together on their adventure to retrieve Bacon from Earth. The actors have always had chemistry, but seeing them carry the film on their shoulders you can't help but want more of the same. Drax's dry delivery and Mantis' exasperation both are tinged with love and respect for each other. Give these kids a buddy cop show. Have them solve crimes in space. They both apparently enjoy holiday decorating – maybe a "Selena & Chef" type cooking show? Even just watching them slowly and confusingly get drunk in a dive bar is worth the cover charge. 


Christmas song

The special features several original tunes. Performed by the Old 97's, "I Don't Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime Is Here)" is a kind of Tom Petty, surf rock ballad to the wintertime holiday as explained by extraterrestrials. Picture Harry from "Resident Alien" in a dad band. With lyrics like "Santa is a furry freak," this may not be something you want your kids chanting in the car to grandmother's house but they will be humming it. Could this be the new "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells"? The verses are more complicated than that but it is catchy. 


Drax's ugly sweater

Not since last year's "Hawkeye" did a superhero story give us so much seasonal cheer. There are decorations. There are colorful lights. There are Drax and Mantis stealing decorations and wrapped in holiday lights. A classic Christmas story wouldn't be complete without holiday shopping and the two main characters get into the spirit — and into some ugly sweaters. Drax's sweater, a green number with a pizza cat in a Santa cap with laser eyes, is particularly fetching. And you can have one of your very own, from sellers on Etsy and other retailers. Next year's Halloween/Christmas costume, maybe?


Kyra and Kevin

Yes, Kevin Bacon plays a version of himself in the special, Nic Cage in "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" style. The actor is a likable good sport, whether running from a bounding Mantis and Drax as they leap over box hedges, or adopting a fake accent. It's an adorable kind of roman à clef. And when Bacon's wife calls in the film, it's Bacon's real-life wife, actor Kyra Sedgwick, on the line. Married for more than 30 years, the couple famously alternated working vs being at home with their children. But the children are grown now. Get these two together in a sequel, please. 


Animated sequences 

This whole Christmas thing starts with a memory Peter shares of spending Christmas with notoriously grumpy (and secretly soft-hearted) Yondu (Michael Rooker). These memories are animated, in a style reminiscent of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons or the more recent Metalocalypse. It's fun. It feels refreshingly retro. There was a Disney XD "Guardians of the Galaxy" animated series starting in 2015, but it ended in 2019. Bring a cartoon of the gang back to Saturday morning. It would be the perfect accompaniment to sugary cereal eaten straight out of the box.   

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Kevin Bacon singing 

Bacon, along with being an enormously talented actor and connected to everyone in the world via a few degrees, is also a musician. With his brother Michael Bacon, he fronts a band, the Bacon Brothers, whose style is a blend of alt country and soulful folk rock. The band has released eleven albums, and has toured all over the world, including playing shows at Carnegie Hall and the Grand Ole Opry. Bacon shows off his musical chops in the holiday special, collaborating with the Old 97's on the original song, "Here It Is Christmastime." His delivery is pure Americana, charmingly gruff around the lyrics "All I want is you for Christmas." Look out, Bruce Springsteen. Bacon's on the menu this marvelous holiday.

"Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is now streaming on Disney+.

By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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