Unless you're one of those people who hates fun, you'll have a hard time holding back an ear-to-ear smile while watching the latest Marvel Studios epic, "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Bringing one of the more obscure superhero teams to the big screen -- obscure, at least, to people who don't read the comics -- this film is easily the biggest gamble Marvel has taken. You go big or you go home, and Marvel has gone big, turning out arguably its best film yet. High praise, indeed, for a studio that has only produced hits.
This space epic follows a ragtag group of oddballs -- a self-proclaimed "legendary" outlaw, an assassin, a mercenary raccoon, a brute out for revenge and a sentient tree -- as they try to stop an alien villain from destroying the world.
The outlaw is Star-Lord, aka Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, with amazing charisma), who was abducted from Earth as a kid. He steals an orb of indeterminate ... well, everything, and soon learns that an evil alien named Korath (Djimon Hounsou), who works for an even more evil alien Ronan (Lee Pace), wants the orb and will stop at nothing to get it.
When Star-Lord ends up in jail -- it's a long, action-packed story told quickly and fluidly, thanks to director and co-writer James Gunn -- the team really starts to come together. There's the assassin Gamora (Zoë Saldana, looking good in green as opposed to "Avatar" blue), the massive Drax (wrestler Dave Bautista, in a strong, funny performance), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper, who sounds like he's channeling Joe Pesci) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Together, the team must save the world.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is everything you could ever want from a summer blockbuster. It's epic in scope, incredibly smart (from the writing to the intricate plot), funny, heartwarming without being maudlin and full of wonder.
There are scenes with Groot, sure to be the fan favorite after this, that will leave you wide-eyed with awe as he works his magic on the screen.
Pratt, who has shined in supporting roles throughout his career, from dramas like "Moneyball" to comedies like "Delivery Man," takes a huge star turn as Star-Lord. He's got the roguish swagger of Indiana Jones and Han Solo, with the wit to match.
Guardians of the Galaxy / Directed by James Gunn / Starring Chris Pratt, Zoë Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace / Rated PG-13