Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The Guardians survive the dread sequel. But only just.

We all liked the surprise-hit 2014 original for its freshness, its humility, its goofiness, and for recreating better than any other space opera in the last four decades the spirit of the first Star Wars movie. (It’s one of the few movies I’ve ever watched twice.)

So let’s cut to the space chase. Is this one as good? No. Is it worth seeing? Definitely. All the interstellar misfits are back, but they’ve lost the sweet silliness and feisty underdog spirit, and the fun seems ever so slightly forced. Worse, it takes its quest for meaning seriously. Bad idea. It’s trying a little too hard.

Somewhat paradoxically, it loses momentum whenever it ramps up the pixels for the occasional redundant space-battle set piece, mostly thrown in to give the 3D something to do. But it always retracts to its comfort zone of quips, sight gags, 70s mix tapes, and this time some big-deal cameos.

Bottom line: way better than most stuff on offer at the multiplex right now. (136 min)