Marvel Wants You To Remember How Cute Baby Groot Is

The five-episode anthology, I Am Groot, is largely pointless. But it sure is adorable
Marvel Wants You To Remember How Cute Baby Groot Is

Director: Kirsten Lepore
Writer:
Kirsten Lepore
Cast:
Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
Streaming on
: Disney+ Hotstar

How much longer can the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) assembly line churn, having reached the point at which a character with exactly one line in the movies gets his own spinoff? I Am Groot, an animated collection of five shorts set between the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, is at least self-aware, to some extent. It fastforwards through the Marvel opening theme viewers have been acquainted with for more than a decade and tries to preempt any cynical readings of the series with a barrage of adorable baby Groot images. Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) in a onesie. Baby Groot soaking in a bubble bath. Baby Groot lovingly etching his Guardians of the Galaxy family in crayon. Each short is designed to elicit the instinctive 'aww' reaction pre-programmed into longtime Disney viewers. (I know The Mandalorian is good, but anyone who says Grogu isn't holding their heart in his toddler-sized fist is lying to themselves.)

"It's hard to stay mad at you," a character tells Groot at one point, a wink-wink address to viewers. How can anyone be mad at something this cute?, the Marvel machine asks. To be fair, it is hard. I Am Groot is the equivalent of watching YouTube videos of babies gurgling with delight or a cat cuddling up to its owner, a brief and amusing midday diversion that makes up in charm what it lacks in substance.

The series coasts by on baby Groot's endearing nature alone, as he grows into his gangly limbs, tentatively learns to make friends and gets into all sorts of trouble, all low-stakes of course. In the absence of dialogue, episodes rely on his wide-eyed exaggerated expressions. None of the shorts stray too far from the brief of: Let Groot be cute. An episode briefly flirts with horror — things go bump in the night and Groot must investigate. But even this must end in a petulant danceoff.

The animation is vibrant and textures are rendered with care, though each episode restricts itself to a single location, which limits the scope of artistic imagination. Each short sticks to a wise 4-minute-long runtime, ending before it gets too twee. The worst thing you can say about I Am Groot is that it isn't particularly necessary viewing in a phase that has so far felt aimless. Even so, for a franchise that's caught in an endless self-referential loop, it's good to have a palette cleanser every now and then.

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