This is a goofy, dazzling, often hilarious convergence of inspired nuttiness. You’ll probably hear comparisons to the original Star Wars, The Fifth Element and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, and all of those comparisons would be plausible. It’s a blessedly new and crazy direction for the Marvel universe, and director James Gunn (Super, Slither) has taken a huge step towards the A-list. Also taking a giant leap toward the upper echelon of Hollywood royalty is Chris Pratt, who mixes great charm, rugged action hero bravado and premium comic timing as Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord. After a prologue that shows the Earthly origins of his character, Pratt sets the tone for the movie during the opening credits, grooving to his cassette-playing Sony Walkman on an alien planet and using squirrelly little critters as stand-in microphones. After unknowingly stealing a relic that could have the power to take down the entire universe, Quill finds himself in serious trouble. Events lead to his joining forces with a genetically enhanced Raccoon named Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), a gigantic tree person thing named Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), an angry, muscle-bound alien named Drax (Dave Bautista) and an ass-kicking green woman named Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Together, they become the Guardians of the Galaxy, an unlikely troupe of mischievous outcasts that plays like the Avengers meets the Marx Brothers. The cast, buoyed by a spirited script co-written by Gunn, keeps things zippy and always funny. Visually, the movie is a tremendous feat of special and makeup effects. If you see it in 3-D, you’ll be happy with the results.

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