Director James Gunn brings the same brand of sweetness-amid-the-horror he peddled in Super to a big-budget Marvel Universe space saga. Put another way: this is an anti-Avengers. There, a disparate group of heroes had to look past their own individual excellences in order to come together as a team. Here, a disparate group of wretches have to look past their own individual damages in order to come together as a team. Put still another way: Marvel puts its heart on its sleeve with a story about the healing power of friendship, but that sleeve is stained with blood, spit, and other bodily fluids. The dialogue is weak, the story is paint-by-numbers, and the characterization is short on personality and heavy on chuckle-fishing. But for better or for worse, star Chris Pratt throws himself headlong into his play to become a new generation's Han Solo. With Zoe Saldana. (2014) — Matthew Lickona
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