Space Jam: A New Legacy was poised to take over the world…then it saw something shiny.
Malcolm D. Lee’s sequel to Space Jam (1996) struggles to find its equilibrium as he throws everything but the kitchen sink into the mix. The live-action/ animated film returns classic Looney Tunes characters to the big screen in a quest to assist NBA player LeBron James to win a digitalised basketball match and rescue his son Dom (Cedric Joe) from the clutches of Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle).
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, Warner Bros. Pictures, Director Lee, and screenplay writers Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terence Nance, Jesse Gordon, and Celeste Ballard manage to overcomplicate things in a case of too many chefs spoil the broth.
Here we have a modern live-action/ animated film with an A list cast from a studio with a substantial and impressive filmography. A relatively simple storyline with themes of family and staying true to yourself is then intermixed with traditional hand-drawn animation and modern 3D CGI effects, a desire to please both children and adults, marketing, and cross-promotion. It is the latter two elements and the voracity with which they are pursued that skews the equilibrium of the film.
Set in the Warner Bros. Serversphere where Al-G is master and commander, the door is left open to re-introduce practically every Warner Bros. character known to man. As fun as it is to see Captain Caveman and Scooby-Doo in speaking cameos, the rationale of including hundreds of other characters including King Kong, Beetlejuice, and versions of all four live-action Batmen (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck) can be questioned. Other than blatant cross-promotion and money-making marketing, that rationale remains unknown.
However, it is not all tedious, emoji money eyes for Space Jam: A New Legacy. In fact, when you shed the marketing and cross-promotion, the film is quite entertaining.
James stars as a fictionalised version of himself struggling to understand his son when things go awry. His character arc is inevitable. Nevertheless, it is enjoyable to watch.
Other than the forced one-liners designed solely to create the trailer, James holds his own in the acting stakes but, his performance pales in comparison to Academy Award-winning Cheadle as duplicitous artificial intelligence, Al-G. Cheadle embodies over the top villainy with gusto stealing the show in the process.
The return of Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman), Lola Bunny (Zendaya), Daffy Duck (Eric Bauza) and other traditional Looney Tunes characters is also a delight. Catchphrases and replications of scenes and scenarios are effectively transposed into the storyline in a way that makes sense and allows audiences to relive the joy of yesteryear.
Despite its marketing overkill, Space Jam: A New Legacy is a step up from the original film in every possible way. With some genuine laugh out loud moments, kids are sure to be pleased with the film’s colour and excitement and adults with its positive message and throwback to classic cartoon characters. It is a welcome addition to cinemas these school holidays.
Movie Review Anita Kertes