Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Starring: LeBron James, Zendaya, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe, Khris Davis
Written by: Jesse Gordon, Celeste Ballard, (also story) Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terence Nance, (based on the movie “Space Jam”) Thomas Harris, Steve Rudnick, Herschel Weingrod and Leo Benvenuti
Running Time: 115 mins
Release date: 16th July 2021
Space Jam was a dizzy mix for silliness with basketball legend Michael Jordon playing with Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang. While never a masterpiece, it did have some enjoyable moments and had Bill Murray doing what he does best, stealing the movie from everyone. No such luck for Space Jam: A New Legacy, a sequel nobody asked for and, to be honest, nobody should want. Take the same story, replace Jordan with another NBA star and place it in a modern, cyber world, and what do you get? A two-hour advert for Warner Bros that had had me close to walking out!
LeBron James loves basketball. He lives for basketball, and he wants his kids to love and live for basketball too. When Warner Bros invites him to be the face of their new technological platform, Warner 3000, James refuses, which infuriates its creator, an algorithm called Al G. Rhythm. So angry is Al that he kidnaps James’s son and holds him to ransom, the price: a basketball game. If James wins, he gets freedom. If Al wins, then James is stuck in cyberspace forever. The only problem is, Looney Tunes cartoon characters make up his team.
Within the first few minutes of this film, when a young LeBron James does one of those fancy high-five handshakes that only appear in corny family movies, I knew this was going to be a trawl. It was evident that this would be crammed with moralising and moments in which the score would go all twee as James gives fatherly advice to his son, who isn’t interested in basketball and wants to spend his time creating a basketball computer game. When lines like “Once you step into these four lines (basketball court) this is work!”, you kind of know that LeBron James’s obsession with the sport is going to push the two apart further.
The film trudges along for nearly half an hour without sight nor sound of the Looney Tunes. Instead, setting up Al G. Rhythm, a computer programme stuck in Warner Bros giant computer banks and has the form of a human (the usually brilliant Don Cheadle, obviously looking for a nice paycheque and profit from the box office). Once James is sent into cyberspace, filled with planets made up of Warner Bros greatest successes (one for Harry Potter, one for The Matrix, one for Game of Thrones), the film finally lands on an empty Looney Tunes world, where Bugs Bunny is the only occupant.
We then get an extended sequence where LeBron, now a cartoon version, and Bugs must bring together all the cartoon favourites, as they are scattered on these various planets (the funniest being Yosemite Sam as the pianist in Casablanca). Once everyone found and returned to their home, the match begins, and it goes on…and on…and on! The Looney Tunes crowd become 3D CGI characters for James to return to being human, and they are up against other stars of the court as mutant forms from LeBron junior’s computer game.
The whole film looks like a disaster in a paint factory. The glaring colours are complimented with a loud and often intruding soundtrack, so even the dialogue is drowned out. As you would expect, the editing is so fast, it makes you giddy, and the whole thing is thrown together at such a break-neck speed that it tries to hide the fact that the plot makes no sense at all. It has taken six (count them) SIX screenwriters to bring this nonsense to the screen, which treats its audience with such disrespect. Gags fall flat, the ideas of the Loony Tunes cartoons are thrown out the window and what makes matters worse is that this feels like a massive pat on the back for Warner Brothers.
As well as having the various world, we have a crowd made up of Warner Bros creations. The Hanna-Barbera collection is there; King Kong and the Iron Giant sit around watching the same. More bizarrely, the droogs from A Clockwork Orange, Pennywise from IT and, even more strange, the nuns from Ken Russell’s The Devils! For most movies, this would be a compliment for placing such obscure characters, but this is a family film!
If you thought Michael Jordan was a bad actor, wait till you see LeBron James. I am sure he is a fantastic basketball player (I’ve never had the pleasure of watching him play), but maybe this is where his most remarkable skills lie. Acting is not one of them. As I said earlier, Don Cheadle, who I like and admire greatly, is reduced to a pantomime villain as Al and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang lack none of the inventiveness or wit of the original cartoons back in the day.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is a mess that fails to deliver in every department. It’s far too long, has an awful script, and I cared less about who would win or lose. One decent joke about Michael Jordan in a film close to two hours is not good enough. It will be popular for those who remember the original movie, but then they will return to their DVDs and streamers and try to find the 1996 film and say it’s a classic compared to this tripe. Awful.
1 out of 5