Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (PG-13)
In this follow-up to the tongue-in-cheek Marvel original that put the fun back into comic-book adaptations, the gang -- Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), now a sapling -- battle space aliens together like a rock-solid family unit right out of the Fast films. The importance of family was already in the spotlight in the first film, which saw Quinn yearning to meet his mysterious father and Gamora grappling with her role in turning her sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), into a homicidal robot (they battled for dad's attention as kids). In Vol. 2, that fascination slides into overdrive, swallowing the plot line when Kurt Russell shows up as Ego, Quill's powerful god father; will Quill give up his new family when his old one shows up?
Just like Fast, Vol. 2 aims to please with breathtaking set pieces that'll convince you to delete all your old diatribes about CGI ruining the movies. But no matter how funny as writer-director James Gunn wants this film to be -- the one-liners move at lightspeed -- too many of the punch lines are referential; how much comedy can you milk from the mere mention of David Hasselhoff? Gunn's on a mission to find out. Meanwhile, Russell's too good for this movie. His easy shifts from humor to Acting (with a capital A) highlights how little substance Pratt brings to his role.