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.

Minari: Film Review

Minari

I have been hearing nothing but praise for Minari for a really long time – basically since it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year – so I had been dying to watch it for months and I had built my expectations ridiculously high, so when I finally got around to see it, I could appreciate how beautiful and amazing it was, but I was expecting more.

This semi-autobiographical movie, based on writer/director Lee Isaac Chung‘s upbringing, follows the Yi family as they relocate from California to Arkansas in search of their own American Dream in the 1980s. Patriarch Jacob (Steven Yeun) is fed up with sexing chickens for his income and spends all their money on buying a plot of land, which he tries to turn into a farm for Korean produce with the help of local man Paul (Will Patton). His wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) isn’t impressed with their new trailer home, living in the middle of nowhere, and their money problems, so their marriage becomes strained. They come to the agreement that her mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) can come over from South Korea and live with them and their children Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David (Alan Kim), who suffers from a heart condition.

Minari is a wonderful, tender, heartwarming film with a terrific screenplay, strong performances all round, and gorgeous cinematography. I loved the character dynamics within the family and how the introduction of Soon-ja – a very unconventional grandma figure – changes them. The family are broke so Jacob works non-stop to make the farm a success, but he becomes obsessed with it and stops making his family a priority. At one point I wondered where it was going to go and how it was going to wrap up, but I didn’t need to worry as the conclusion is very satisfying.

Minari has been nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, as well as acting nods for Yeun and Yuh-jung, which I’m so glad about. I’ve been watching The Walking Dead for years so I have been a big champion of Yeun’s movie career since he was killed off the show and I’m thrilled to see him getting recognised for his complex, nuanced emotional work here, while Yuh-jung is a joy to watch as the quirky, foul-mouthed grandma.

There isn’t a weak link among the cast. Ye-ri does well as the wife and mother at her wit’s end, ready to ditch the farm and return to California, Cho’s Anne who is wise beyond her years and looks after David, while Kim is the adorable scene-stealer with fantastic facial expressions. I loved his interactions with Soon-ja so much. Outside of the Korean-American cast, there’s Patton, who is unnerving as the eccentric and devoutly religious farmhand.

I think the hype surrounding Minari was detrimental to my viewing experience as I went in expecting too much and it failed to live up to my super high expectations. I was ever so slightly disappointed because I was waiting for something mindblowingly amazing. If it wasn’t for the hype, I don’t think I would have felt let down at all. Minari deserves all the praise and awards recognition it is getting as it’s such a delightful, life-affirming film.

Available to watch at home, on demand or via virtual cinemas from Friday 2nd April. For more information on platforms and virtual cinemas, please click here. In cinemas once they reopen.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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