If you're looking for a little air conditioning to help get through the dog days of August and your kids are fans of superhero mayhem, consider seeing Guardians of the Galaxy. As with most superhero movies these days there is plenty of carnage and implied death that earn the movie its PG-13 rating; however, Guardians has a core of goofiness and good humor that makes it accessible to a broader audience.
Guardians is both a superhero movie and a space opera in the mold of Star Wars. If you're not familiar with the comic book the movie is based on, you're not alone. Marvel chose to make Guardians of the Galaxy not because of the popularity of the characters but because it offered the chance to do something a little different, such as opening up the many cosmic storylines that exist in the Marvel universe.
The film follows the misadventures of a thief named Peter Quill and the group of misfits he falls in with as they, and everyone else go chasing after a mysterious and powerful object. There are epic space battles but also a jail break, gangsters, a megalomaniacal villain and lots of '70s music and Kevin Bacon references. That's right, you get "Escape (The Piña Colada song)" and spectacular settings like a world called Knowhere that is the titanic severed head of a deceased galactic being. (It sounds grim but it actually looks really cool.)
Aside from the otherworldly locations and explosive special effects, the heart of the movie is its characters. Most engaging are the CGI characters Rocket Racoon and his tree-like sidekick Groot (voiced by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively). Despite his crude demeanor Rocket is the star of the movie as far as my daughter is concerned. And while Groot only says, "I am Groot," the style in which he's animated and the way the other characters respond to him gives him depth and empathy. He has an innocence and strength that my kids responded to. (After we came out of the movie they asked, "Aside from Rocket and Groot, who was your favorite character?")
But the other more-or-less human characters deserve a mention, too. Gamorra, who is advertised as a killing machine, has some facets of her character that makes her a passable role model for girls. She's confident, knows her own mind, doesn't take any insults from the boys and is dangerous when she wants to be. Why she expresses any interest in the lothario Peter Quill is something of a mystery — at least until he shows that he's willing to make serious sacrifices for his friends.
And this is where we get to the message of the movie. Friendship is what drives this group of characters, makes them circle around each other and ultimately saves the day. It's a positive message that lifts the movie above the carnage and makes the whole venture worthwhile.
If your kids can handle intense science fiction action and you don't mind frequent mild swearing I would recommend it for children as young as 11. You don't have to be a superhero fan to enjoy it.