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Originally published July 29, 2014 at 12:31 PM | Page modified July 30, 2014 at 3:03 PM

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‘Guardians’ explodes into big summertime fun

With a talking raccoon as one of its main characters (as well as a talking tree, a green assassin and their leader, played by Chris Pratt), “Guardians of the Galaxy” sure is a whole lot of fun: 3.5 stars out of 4.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review ★★★½  

‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. Directed by James Gunn. 121 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language. Opens late-night Thursday at several theaters.

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I saw commercials earlier and figured to myself, "How could I NOT go to see a movie with an aggressive, talking raccoon... MORE


Let’s have some fun.

I mean, it’s summertime. Right? Time for whiz-bang, damn-the-torpedoes, high-octane good times at your local motion-picture palace.

Time, in other words, for “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

It’s a comic-book movie, birthed from the ever-expanding Marvel universe. We’ve had plenty of those of late, but “Guardians” stands apart because it’s somehow truer to a comic book’s essence than any Marvel or DC-derived picture you can name. Which is to say it’s pulpy, kind of cheesy and giddily exaggerated (and aware of it) in a way that, say, the “Thors,” the “Captain Americas” and Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are not.

Those pictures are all about saving a city or saving the world. Important business, you bet. Considering all those movies together, one might find oneself wondering — to quote a certain famous comic-book character — “Why so serious?”

“Guardians” is not serious. Even though its characters are on a mission to save the entire galaxy, they’re about as serious as, well, a talking raccoon ... with a machine gun. Who steals the movie. Let us now pause to praise Bradley Cooper, whose peevish, nay, near-rabid, vocalizations give the CG raccoon named Rocket his abrasive appeal.

So, five characters to save the galaxy. They are: the raccoon and his buddy, a tall talking tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). There’s a massively muscled angry guy named Drax (pro wrestler Dave Bautista). There’s a green-skinned female assassin (Zoe Saldana).

Their leader: Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt). He’s a swashbuckling freebooter thieving his way across the cosmos in his trusty starship, the Milano, with a whole heap of bounty hunters hot on his trail. His attempt to steal a mysterious silver orb sets the plot in high-speed motion.

OK. Originality is not the greatest strength of “Guardians.” In fact, it’s as derivative as all get out. But if you’re going to steal, why not steal from the best? So Quill is an amalgam of Han Solo and Indiana Jones. And “Guardians” itself is like the “Star Wars” cantina scene exploded into a full-length movie with weird aliens of every configuration and color meaning to do our heroes harm.

And I do mean exploded. Director James Gunn (“Slither”) piles explosion upon even bigger explosion upon gigantomoungous explosion as the five — criminals all — break out of jail and go blasting through space to thwart the galaxy-dominating schemes of a supervillain wielding a mean Thor-ish hammer.

Much of the exposition amid the explosions sounds like gibberish as explanations are offered as to why that orb is so important.

Big deal. It’s the snarking and sniping among the principals that give the picture its spark. Pratt (who grew up in Lake Stevens) brings a goofy charm to his portrayal of Quill, who is not as smart as he thinks he is. His verbal jousting with the wrathful Rocket is the best part of the movie.

Add in, as Gunn does, a whole host of ’70s-era rock tunes, cleverly and comically integrated into the story, and you’ve got a summertime cinema winner.

Soren Andersen:

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