With loads of sitcom style humor to spare and a vibe that’s best described as too cool for school, Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, the latest in the annual springtime Marvel Films sweepstakes, unfortunately comes up short where it counts­—in the storytelling department. This is a film that seems to be priding itself in how clever it is with its endless pop cultural references—Cheers, David Hasselhoff and seemingly everything in between get a shout out—and insertion of forgotten records from the lower reaches of the Billboard top 40 charts on the soundtrack. What it doesn’t seem to realize, however, is that a story well-told is what has made the Marvel brand as renowned as it has become and has compelled audiences to return to the franchise pictures that the studio cranks out on a semi annual basis.  Die hard fans of the first Guardian of the Galaxy installment from three years ago and Marvel fanboys are likely to be the only ones impressed with what is—compared to the original film—a lackluster affair.

The film opens with a scene that utilizes the same kind of digital trickery employed in last year’s game changing Rogue One, wherein actors are brought back from the dead, or younger versions of their current selves are inserted into the film’s story. Here we’re greeted with a version of Kurt Russell in the year 1980 that serves to clue in the audience as to the identity of the father of lead Guardian, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). If you’ll recall, in the earlier film Quill had never quite gotten over the loss of his mother, which was a major part of the film. It’s pretty obvious from the outset that the mother-son dynamic from the first film is going to be ditched in favor of a father-son sort of tale.

As it turns out, Peter’s father Ego is actually a God of some sort who just happened to be visiting earth when he fell in love with Peter’s mother. Eventually he had to return to his home planet, abandoning mother and son and now wants to make amends. Peter’s surrogate family consisting of Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Voice of Bradley Cooper), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and adopted father, Yondu (Michael Rooker) finds it all a bit suspect and more than a little hurt that he would forsake his current family. Yes, folks, this is what passes for drama in the world of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thankfully, there’s a plot twist during the final act to liven things up a bit but by then my patience was wearing thin and I was just ready for the whole endeavor to be over and done. A title card at the end promises that the Guardians will return and of that I have no doubt. I just hope that when happens that the filmmakers realize that cleverness and good solid storytelling aren’t necessarily one and the same.

Guardians Volume 2 is playing everywhere.

Chris Pratt & Kurt Russell in GOTG, Volume 2

Questions or comments? Write Adam at [email protected].