If Star Wars wasn't busy taking itself so seriously, it would be Guardians of the Galaxy. This is not to say that Galaxy is a better movie, but simply to say the playful tone is refreshing.
The sci-fi landscape is littered with ultra-bleak movies and books (mine included, which, by the way, is called The Charlatans and you can buy it for the low low price of 2.99 on amazon. I'm not above shameless self promotion) or space operas rife with "serious" love stories that come across pretty clunky. Guardians on the other hand, revels in its whimsical story-telling, quotable one-liners and 70s pop soundtrack.
The basic premise is nothing special. Peter Quill is abducted by alien space pirates in 1988 on the night his mother dies of cancer. Yondu, the lead pirate becomes a tenuous father figure to the young man.
The film's charm shows through when we meet Quill 28 years later on Morag, where the childish-but-lovable thief has been sent to steal a mysterious orb. Chris Pratt is perfectly cast as the charismatic dope who is trying to find notoriety throughout the galaxy by calling himself "Starlord". When the orb turns out to be more than it appears, Quill has fame thrust upon him in a way he hadn't bargained for.
Quill inadvertently draws together a band of hilarious oddballs and misfits, as well as drawing the ire of several evil-but-oh-so-cool villains.
The movie works well because it blends elements of space opera (unique alien races, vivid landscapes, politics and subterfuge) with elements of farce (humor, self-awareness, snappy dialogue) in a seamless, even tone. It's exciting, funny, visually stunning and, while no one is going to get it confused with a nuanced character study, the heroes have a little depth to them.
Additionally, the heroes have great chemistry, and quirks that make for fun, memorable scenes. Bradley Cooper's genetically-altered raccoon is a constant stream of sarcasm, while Dave Bautista's Drax character can only understand things in literal terms, which makes for some of the funnier parts of the movie. While there a bit too many baddies in the movie, they are stylish and scary, as good space opera villains should be.
The film does fall flat a bit in places. The scene with Quill's mother dying is quite cheesy, and there are a few parts where it is trying too hard to be funny and it just doesn't work. These flaws are minor and easy to overlook in light of all the things there are to like about the movie.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy is a highly entertaining, easy-to-digest piece of summer fare I would encourage anyone to go see. Along with Edge of Tomorrow it gets my "Summer Movie of the Year" award (Honorable mention to X-Men: Days of Future Past). Final Grade: B+