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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Guardians of the Galaxy is a Marvel Comics-based sci-fi action adventure about a group of misfit outlaws who band together to defend the universe against a murderous villain. There's violence, but it's mostly hand-to-hand combat and a few deaths (or near deaths) that are heartbreaking for other characters and viewers alike (one involves a child's loss of a parent), in addition to grand-scale action violence with explosions and weapons. There are references to Peter's reputation as a ladies' man and jokes about his past conquests; Peter and Gamora also have a lot of chemistry and almost kiss a couple of times. Language isn't frequent but includes "s--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," "ass," "bastard," and "d--k"; at one point, the Guardians also drink an unidentified liquid that makes them drunk. With a little less edge than Iron Man or The Avengers, this adventure is a good fit for a slightly younger crowd than some other superhero movies, especially since it encourages teamwork and friendship.
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What's the story?
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY follows American pilot Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), who was abducted from Earth as a child in 1988 after his mother died. Fast forward 26 years into the future: In a galaxy far, far away, Peter is a rogue outlaw who steals a powerful orb he plans to sell. After getting arrested, Quill reluctantly teams up with a group of criminals he's briefly imprisoned with -- Rocket, a genetically modified raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper); Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the adopted daughter of the most dangerous being in the universe; tree-like Groot (Vin Diesel); and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who's on a personal mission to avenge his family. The fate of the universe lies in the hands of these misfit not-quite-friends when it's clear that the villainous Ronan (Lee Pace) plans to use the orb to destroy an entire planet.
Is it any good?
This movie is truly a lot of fun. The Marvel universe includes a wide array of heroes, from playboy billionaire Tony Stark and the arrogant god Thor to serious, duty-bound Steve Rogers and broody scientist Bruce Banner. What's so charming about Guardians of the Galaxy is that none of the group starts off as a hero: They become superheroes by virtue of working together. Director James Gunn has perfectly cast the comedy adventure with Pratt, whose leading-man charm is finally on display after years of being the spot-on supporting player on Parks and Recreation; he carries the action with a hilarious mix of Han Solo-meets-Mal Reynolds overconfidence and good humor. The entire group is beautifully cast, and there's surprising chemistry between Pratt and Saldana, who once again shines as a monochrome-colored alien. And Cooper and Diesel sound like they're having the time of their lives playing the supergenius raccoon Rocket and his muscle, Groot, who can only ever say "I am Groot."
Everything from the fantastic soundtrack (populated by Peter's beloved mix tape, a catchy playlist of his mother's favorite songs, like "Hooked on a Feeling," "Spirit in the Sky," and "O-O-H Child") to the wink-wink pop-culture jokes, the thrilling action sequences, and the overall theme makes Guardians of the Galaxy a joy to watch. As in The Avengers, the main actors mesh well, the villain is imposingly played, and the intergalactic stakes couldn't be higher. The movie ends on an obviously open note to make room for a possible sequel, and there's really no way you could sit through it without being hopeful there will be a follow up, just to have that much fun in a theater again.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of Marvel adaptations. Why do you think comic books make for such good and well-received movies? Are all movies inspired by comic books created equal? Why do some stand out?
How does Guardians of the Galaxy compare to other superhero stories? Do you prefer hero movies with just one star, or do you think the ensemble styles are better, like The Avengers?
Are the Guardians role models? Are some of them "worthier" of respect and admiration than others? Why or why not?
- In theaters: August 1, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 9, 2014
- Cast: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
- Director: James Gunn
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.