Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy ★★★

Post-plot? No. Not when every character motivation is sufficiently clear — except maybe for Thanos, who apparently is the universe's ultimate badass but can't fetch a powerful orb without entrusting the job to a megalomaniac with an inferiority complex.

Overweighted with pop culture references? Not really. Sorry Josh, those overt nods to things like "Ranger Rick" and "The Maltese Falcon" could have been excised completely and wouldn't have been missed at all — except the FOOTLOOSE bit; that was funny — much less caused the movie to "collapse." Why bother with the references then, if they're so inconsequential? A valid point, especially when you consider that, even though there's some logic to a (this) character filtering experiences through the lens of his cultural touchstones, it seems unlikely that anyone Chris Pratt's Peter Quill is cracking wise to would have the slightest clue what he's talking about. Which gets at the more legitimate problem here: GUARDIANS' insistence on being funny. Director James Gunn and co. are playing directly to the audience, mugging in a way that can subvert other attempts at character- and world-building.

...And yet, I was thoroughly entertained by the collective banter and chemistry of Quill, Groot, Rocket, Drax and Gamora. I wish I believed Pratt during those few earnest action movie-moments the way I did watching him channel Han and Indy, but his slightly churlish, caddish charm goes a long way... And this might actually be Bradley Cooper's most instinctive, fun performance. A closing title card informs us that the Guardians of the Galaxy will return, not that there was any doubt. To my surprise considering my general apathy going in, I'm genuinely interested in following this crazy family on another two-hour adventure.

P.S. Did I miss something, or is it a little odd that Nova Corps arrests them and sends them directly to prison? What up, no due process on Xandar?

P.P.S. Took the two oldest kids (13 and 10) — each as ignorant of the source material as me — and they both loved it. Yes, they laughed at every "I am Groot."