“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a sci-fi action movie that spoofs the genre to strong comic effect, and yet it profits from every good thing about the form it’s mocking. It tries to have it both ways, and it succeeds.
The first “Guardians of the Galaxy” almost got there, but the jokes weren’t funny enough, and it leaned too much on space battles. “Vol. 2” is wilder and more inspired. The emphasis is on the comedy, and the sci-fi action genre is the target, so that every time the movie seems to be going in a conventional direction — cranking up the soundtrack for the corny horns of hope — the legs are cut out, and the seriousness goes splat.
Written and directed by James Gunn, the movie gets off to a great start. The guardians are preparing for an attack by a gigantic killer octopus, and Groot is with them. Groot was a tree man all but killed in the previous film, but a twig was saved. Now the twig has grown into an oblivious toddler.
Gunn shoots the ensuing battle by focusing on Groot, as the baby twig dances to music and keeps coming within inches of getting squashed. The idea is funny, but the execution is even funnier, because the animation is so good that the dance itself is fun to watch.
In the first film, we met Peter (Chris Pratt), a space adventurer whose mother was dead and whose father was unknown to him. Now we get to meet his dad, Ego (Kurt Russell), who has been searching for Peter for many years. Of course, there are warning signs — his name, Ego, for one. But he has a great living situation, a planetary paradise that he created with the power of his mind. He is a kind of god.
“Guardians 2” throws a lot into the pot, but it keeps all the elements clear. Michael Rooker has a nice role as an inter-space rogue, who helped raise Peter but also terrorized him. Sylvester Stallone shows up as a major space honcho. Throughout the film, the people of a planet known as Sovereign keep figuring in the action. They are a perfect-looking and perfectly mannered golden people — the ideal foil for the movie’s irreverence.
Gunn makes the most of the characters — not just the muscleman, Drax, but Rocket (a shifty raccoon man voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Peter, who is fun-loving but wears his needs on his sleeve, and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who is reserved in all the ways that Peter is open. Near the end, the movie threatens to become the thing it parodies, but it recovers nicely.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive content. 2:16. Fayette, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Paris drive-in, Richmond, Winchester.