Space Jam: A New Legacy

Space Jam: A New Legacy

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

I am a huge fan of the 1996 original Space Jam starring Michael Jordan, I have seen it so many times, I love to sing along to the theme song and I have it on DVD. I was excited when a sequel with LeBron James was announced but the trailer didn’t leave me feeling particularly confident – and I’m sorry to report that it’s a disappointment.

Basketball player James plays a fictionalised version of himself, a father who gives his youngest son Dom (Cedric Joe) a hard time for not focusing on basketball and following in his footsteps, when he is more passionate about video games and is so talented he’s already made his own at the age of 12. During a meeting at the Warner Bros. lot, they both find themselves trapped in the studio’s Server-Verse, a digital space which hosts all of its IP and is run by the evil Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle). The only way to get them out of there is for James to play a basketball game – a non-traditional match based on Dom’s video game – with Looney Tunes characters against Dom and virtual avatars of other professional players.

This film basically just felt like one big advert for Warner Bros and its legacy. The plot gives them an excuse to parade their properties around, as James and Bugs Bunny explore the Server-Verse to track down other Looney Tunes, with them ending up in scenes from Superman, Wonder Woman, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Matrix and more. Loads of WB characters are invited to be spectators for the big match and there were too many – it was so distracting as you end up trying to spot as many characters as possible in the background. It was also baffling to see age-inappropriate characters like Pennywise from It and droogs from A Clockwork Orange in a children’s film. Some of these cameos were fun but it’s quite chaotic.

There are some good ideas in here – I liked seeing the Looney Tunes in other universes and there’s one very good cameo-based one that I won’t spoil – but they were executed quite messily. The story was weak, uninspired, it wasn’t as funny as it should have been, and the message of letting “you do you” was very obvious from the outset. I can’t help but wonder if it was a case of too many cooks – there are six writers credited with the screenplay, one being Terence Nance, who exited as director over creative differences and was replaced by Malcolm D. Lee. One thing I did like about the script was the meta nature of it – the characters are aware it’s a sequel and James gives a funny tongue-in-cheek line about athletes doing acting never working out well.

And he sure was right. Jordan wasn’t exactly Meryl Streep but James’ acting leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter when we meet the Looney Tunes, as there is so much else going on that you don’t think about it as much. I was surprised that Cheadle took on such over-the-top, hammy villain role but he seemed to be having a great time with it. I also enjoyed Sonequa Martin-Green as James’ wife Kamiyah, Lil Rel Howery as a sports commentator, and Sarah Silverman as a WB employee. I was baffled about Steven Yeun being only given one line as another WB staffer – was it a cameo? Or were his scenes chopped down to nothing?

Given that it’s set in a digital multiverse, it’s no surprise that this movie is big on CGI. In fact, it’s too reliant on digital effects and there’s so much to take in. It’s often garish and an eyesore and it’s A LOT. And also, it weirds me out seeing the Looney Tunes in 3D, they should be 2D always! And random side note: I was hoping the theme tune from the original would make an appearance or be remixed or something, but no joy.

This sequel is nowhere near as good as the original but I never expected it to be due to the nostalgia factor. It’s a shame it’s such a dud though.

In cinemas Friday 16th July

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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