Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/ Marvel                 2 hours 16 minutes              PG-13

No raccoons or tree creatures were harmed making this movie, but the same cannot be said for their handlers. There is an example of the kind of comedy in this sequel to the popular 2014 original. Director James Gunn uses and takes off on jokes from the past which, at times, deserve a rim shot, but it works.

There’s more to this Marvel film. Like recent hit The Fate of the Furious, it’s all about family with non-stop action and explosions to burn. Only this time in space and accompanied by a fantastic mix of golden oldies songs hand-picked by Gunn.

Loved hearing the obscure 1970’s LSD by Alliota, Haynes and Jeremiah’s about Lake Shore Drive in our home town, Chicago, along with so many other tunes from the past. (The Chain, Fleetwood Mac, My Sweet Lord/George Harrison, Brandy/Looking Glass). Gunn says these songs got him through adolescent angst and awkwardness, not because he was unloved by his parents, but remembering what it was like in his teen years. He says he dove into his action figures, music and Marvel comic books to escape, bringing as much as he could back into this film.

The original Guardians of the Galaxy was a blockbuster taking in nearly $800 million worldwide. This film, packed with computer generated special effects action, will be a hit, too, but is it as good at the first one? There is a lot of expectation and although it’s not as much of a surprise as the first, it’s definitely a fun ride.

The cast is back with a a few new additions. Peter Quill or Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) exhibit the same tension of a possible romance. Feelings “unspoken” between them is the issue. Zoe Saldana, however, gets short changed in this script. The romantic thread between Gamora and Quill is shallow and perfunctory. We hope that gets better treatment in the next installment slated for 2020 release. She doesn't get to show her acting and action chops as much as she did in the first movie.

Peter Quill is trying to learn more about his origin while fighting off the Sovereign, a golden skinned race lead by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki, The Great Gatsby) who is trying to obliterate the Guardians. Enter Ego, (Kurt Russell), first as a kind of a savior, then we find out he’s Quill’s father (accompanied by the song Father and Son/Cat Stevens). We get the back story about Peter’s parents and much more about the plan this father has for he and his son. Russell is truly believable in this role. Is he a bad daddy or not? He’s got attitude and so does his son.

Pratt as Peter says he didn’t have to lose over 50 pounds like he did for the first one because he kept in better shape. Fellow cast members were in awe of his discipline to stick to his high protein diet, not giving in to doughnut cravings to keep his 6-pack in shape.

Drax (Dave Bautista) has a much bigger part this time. He says he says he had to endure layer upon layer of makeup to get that raised tatted look. In the first film, it took more than 4 hours, but only about 45 minutes in this one. A major improvement. (Saldana’s green makeup took far longer each time.) Drax, too, provides a lot of comedy as the gentle giant who has a heart to go along with his clueless mind. His interaction protecting Baby Groot is touching.

Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) always gets a reaction. The animators have done an exceptional job making this wooden character human and absolutely adorable. You’ll love Groot’s moves when he gets down with the music. Never thought of Diesel as adorable, but as Groot, he is!

Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is a riot! You’d never know it was Cooper as the voice. He’s pure smart ass and rough, but just enough, around the edges. He reminded us of the old cartoons where the spunky one is continuously getting in and barely out of trouble. You’ll want to hate him, but he’s somehow endearing.  

There’s an extended battle that wraps up the movie. Survival comes down to Baby Groot having to push the right button and the back and forth in the scene between Rocket and Groot to get it right provides not only intense drama, but is truly hilarious.

Karen Gillan (Dr. Who, Jumanji) brings more family friction playing Nebula, Gamora’s feisty, antagonistic sister. It’s sibling rivalry all the way. Will there be a fight to the finish? Gillan says Saldana taught her a lot about using body language to sell the action in their fights. She learned that just leaning in or a tilt of the head could make all the difference.

We also fall in love with another new character. Cute as a bug, and she plays one, is Canadian actress, Pom Klementieff. She is the sweet, soft-spoken, big and bug-eyed, Mantis. Her scenes, dwarfed by giant Drax, are cute.

Blue skinned Yondu (Michael Rooker) gets to shine as his storyline gets fleshed out and his relationship to Quill becomes central. You’ll be surprised, as he provides the heart in the story. And his magic arrow really works overtime in this one.

So do the cameos. The one we all wait for is seeing Marvel creator, Stan Lee, and he gets not one, but two really funny ones.  Plus Sylvester Stallone, David Hasselhoff, Ving James, Michelle Yeoh and Miley Cyrus pop up in the film. Is Gunn teasing that they might be in the next Guardians of the Galaxy? And speaking of teases, stay to the very end because there are 5 good ones throughout the credits.

Gunn has created a fun film to express his teen angst that you’ll even see in the credits. It’s all about family, between father and son, dueling sisters, and close friends who become family. This sequel doesn’t have as much snappy repartée as the original that made audiences howl and want more. But the Guardians provide more than enough, in another wild ride.