'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' is a total blast
‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ is a total blast

There are some people you enjoy hanging out with no matter what is going on. The lovable gang of misfits who make up the Guardians of the Galaxy certainly fit that bill.

What makes it even better is these guys don’t just sit around but manage to get themselves into some pretty spectacular sci-fi hijinks.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” surprised nearly everyone in 2014 as Marvel went deeeeeep into its superhero bench and delivered a box-office smash that was funny, stylish, and kicked out some rockin’, ’70s AM-gold tunes.

Back with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” we don’t quite have that same joy and wonder of surprise we did the first time around, but writer/director James Gunn does a great job of taking what worked before and giving it another spin without being repetitive. He also manages to give the characters an opportunity to play off of each other and develop even more along the way.

Led by the charming and roguish Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the Guardians pick up pretty much where we left them with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), and the adorable Baby Groot (somehow voiced by Vin Diesel) now patrolling the universe as heroes for hire.

The underlying theme of “Vol. 2” is family drama as the Guardians work through the dynamics and tensions of their own makeshift family and deal with individual issues as well. Gamora is forced to handle her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) and their love/but-mostly-hate relationship, while Peter sorts through a whole lot of daddy issues.

Not only is his adoptive father/space pirate Yondu (Michael Rooker) back on his trail, but Peter finally meets his biological father, a celestial being with molecule-shaping powers aptly named Ego (played by Kurt Russell with all the swagger he can muster — which is a lot).

This movie is a total blast. It’s packed with jokes, it’s got great action and spectacular 3D-upgrade-worthy effects and some actual earned moments of pathos and sweetness (thanks mostly to the friendship Drax strikes up with Ego’s “pet,” the equally-oblivious Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff). Gunn even throws in some fun little references to classic movies like “North by Northwest” and “The Blob.”

Of course, we also have to talk about the tunes. The unconventional mashup of 1970s and ’80s soft rock hits with sci-fi action was part of the charm of the first “Guardians of the Galaxy.” They pretty much had to do it again, but Gunn does deserve a ton of credit for how he uses his soundtrack.

Any director can take a cool song and throw it into their movie to get a charge out of the audience. In most cases, it’s overdone and kind of lazy. But, Gunn has a knack for choosing the right song for the right scene and doing it with some flair. Only Tarantino does it better.

Take the opening credit scene for example, as Baby Groot dances around to ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” while the rest of the team battles a giant space monster in the background. Also, you have to have all kinds of confidence in your craft to set a kick-ass action sequence to “Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay & The Americans.

This is really what film as entertainment is all about, where you can get yourself a ticket to a good time. Just strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.

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