I Am Groot Season 2 Review: Vin in Roam

It’s not particularly hyperbolic to say that I Am Groot Season 2 features some of Vin Diesel‘s finest work. Even sped up to the timbre, pun intended, of a baby talking tree, it’s a refreshing reminder that this is the man whose first big star turn was as the voice of a giant, sensitive iron robot. As the star of the Fast and Furious franchise, he’s lost sight of the skills that brought him to the dance, relying on brawn and an extremely protected image to ensure he appears to be the toughest man onscreen at all times. Playing a baby, though, seems to have brought back a sense of guileless joy in him, much in the way that improv classes encourage participants to act like five-year-olds as an exercise to get them out of their own heads.

Baby Groot, Doot Doot Doot Doot…

Diesel can’t take sole credit for Groot‘s performance, of course — the animated expressions may or may not be based on his own, but the character gets brought to life by a team of animators under director Kirsten Lepore, who wrote and directed both seasons. Groot in movie continuity may have hulked up to He-Man size and relative age, but in these shorts, he’s permanently young because Disney knows damn well there’s more money in Baby Groot merchandise than there is in angry enemy-killing Groot. Thankfully, though not without digital enhancement, Diesel can play him at all ages. Perhaps unbound by onscreen vanity, since he’s invisible as a person while inhabiting the role, he can come to play and forget to preen.

(L-R): Groot (Voiced by Vin Diesel) and Baby Terma Bird (Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT, Season 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

James Gunn has always been more fond of bathroom humor than many of his fellow superhero directors — was anyone asking to see Gamora’s pants around her ankles in a commode stall last movie? Lepore runs with that, which admittedly should play better with the kids these shorts primarily aim at — the first of the new batch features Groot playing with a baby bird, and involves lots of bird farts and rainbow dumps. In the second, as he seeks a battery for his gaming controller, he comes upon a cybernetic nose and develops a sense of smell, a gag that pretty much goes everywhere you expect it to.

Latchkey Tree

The one in which Groot sees the outer space version of an ice cream truck, however preposterous that logic might seem — don’t ask how he can hear its music through a vacuum — should strike a chord in kids of all ages who got excited at the sound of those silly, simple tunes that meant frozen delights were near. As Groot’s basically left to fend for himself in all these shorts, his frustration in trying to find loose change is palpable because there’s no mommy or daddy to take care of the bill or the flagging down of the ship. “Groot’s Snow Day” pits the pint-sized shrub against a cyborg snowman who may or may not return, while the finale features an unexpected MCU cameo for an Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider parody.

Groot (Voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT, Season 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

These are all simple premises and could go in any direction, but Groot keeps them grooted, er, rooted in character. He’s impulsive, emotional, and good-hearted, if impatient at times, and too patient or unmotivated at others. Basically, he feels like a real kid beneath that calculated-for-maximum-toy-sales facade. Diesel, when publicly feuding with Dwayne Johnson or other costars, can come across as childish, but here he’s crucially able to be childlike, as a tonally perfect muse for Lepore’s sugar-high animation. These shorts may not advance the grand Marvel sagas forward, but as snippets of a space kid’s story, they’re both remarkably photoreal and perfectly charming.

Grade: 5/5

All episodes of I Am Groot will debut on Disney+ on September 6, 2023