Warner Bros. was founded in 1996. Animation brought out Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Porkypig, Elmer Fudd, and the rest of their Looney Tunes team for an animated/live-action experiment that injected NBA stars like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, and Patrick Ewing for “Space Jam.”
The long-awaited sequel of this child-friendly comedy sports comedy, “Space Jam: A New Legacy“, is now being released into theaters and streaming services for a new generation. It’s hard to guess who this movie is directed towards.
The jerseys’ names may not have been the same, but we are now being blasted into virtual reality. In a game that has become more star-driven in the last quarter century, hoops still feature prominently.
His Airness Michael Jordan was the star of the original movie. Jordan had just won a three-peat NBA Championship with Chicago Bulls. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers’ star player, takes over in the 2021 update. This triggers a feeling of nostalgia and can often be regarded as light entertainment if one is able to tolerate the dizzying marketing blitz.
Space Jam was a lighter, joyous affair. It featured an internet-free environment, VHS tapes and Jordan’s funny, light-hearted performance. The sequel is a completely different kind of sporting event, with a lesson-learning agenda that suits today’s hyperactive digital age and a more jaded attitude.
The new film, directed by Malcolm D. Lee, opens with a flashback showing King James in Akron Ohio circa 1998. He plays a magical Gameboy and then runs into court to show his not-quite stellar talents. Another highlight reel is shown, this time featuring a victory collage similar to the 1996 film.
You can escort James to his sprawling Los Angeles mansion where he lectures his son Dominic (Cedric Joseph) about the advantages of hard work and focusing on the court. Sonequa Martin Green plays James’ wife in Star Trek: Discovery. She brings a contrived sense to domesticity to the ultra-rich family.
Don Cheadle, the great actor, portrays Al-G Rhythm. He is a spurned computer algorithm who needs James for his own egotistical plans. Cheadle’s greed brings James’ stardom together with Warner 3000 computer technology, allowing him to get the respect and recognition he deserves.
The madness begins when James and his child are entangled in the cyber universe Tron-style at Warner headquarters. This Warner Bros. movie will feature a lot of references to “Batman,” Harry Potter,” “The Matrix,” the Wizard of Oz,” “Game of Thrones,” as well as classic Looney Tunes characters.
The Warner. Bros. Serververse: James is forced to help Cheadle’s evil algorithm fulfill his destiny by blackmailing James into participating in a basketball match in front of James’ largest social media audience. If he wins, James will get his son back. Or he’ll be imprisoned in the Serververse for life. This is against the AI’s digital champs, The Goon Squad, which are powered by skills from today’s basketball stars.
James embarks upon a recruitment drive for his team. He transforms into a cartoon character, and navigates the technicolor world of Looney Tunes. There, he meets Bugs Bunny. Finally, there is some humor to lift us out of the dull real world.
The $162 million film feels long and slow in live-action sections. However, the film’s CGI animation (designed to look like traditional hand drawn toons) is charming and eye-catching. It’s easy to dismiss this cinematic delight as Lebron James’ vanity project to uphold Michael Jordan’s legacy. But that would be minimizing its value as family-friendly entertainment and disregarding its R-rated knives movie shout-outs.
Bugs Bunny, imitating James T. Kirk, decides to take command of Marvin, the Martian’s spaceship in an attempt to reassemble his original Tunes Squad.
There are bright spots like Bugs Bunny playing Batman and James in Robin The Boy Wonder’s DC World. Especially when Daffy’s Super Duck arrives to save the day.
There are nods to “Mad Max Fury Road,” “Austin Powers”, with Elmer Fudd playing Mini-Me, Yosemite Samantha as “Casablanca”‘s pianist player, and even age-inappropriate cameos from “A Clockwork Orange”‘s violent criminals, The Droogs and the “Game of Thrones” White Walkers. In addition, there are endless Warner Bros. licensed properties.
This commercial is a blatant exercise in self-promotion, with glaring additions to silver screen cash-cows, and eventually ends up as a two-hour long advertisement. It doesn’t even get to the final showdown between the Lebron-led Tune Squad (or the rogue algorithm’s Goon Squad) on the cyberspace court.
These pop-culture references are entertaining, but the novelty quickly wears out with heavy-handed lectures on fatherhood and encouraging your children to follow their dreams rather than pushing them towards something that they don’t want to.
Ordan’s “Space Jam“, which lasted a brisk 87 mins, included close to 15 minutes of opening titles and closing titles. The uneven remake can be a drag on young viewers, especially when there are didactic moments in between the universe-hopping madness that showcases flashes of adult movies they don’t know about.
Although “Space Jam: A New Legacy” may not contain any real outer space, if you have a long-term plan to descend into cyberspace and are a true Lebron James fan, you might be tempted into the film’s colorful calamities.
Even more entertainment is possible by watching cameos of current NBA or WNBA players like Anthony Davis, Diana Taurasi, Klay Thompson and Damian Lillard with their mutated avatars.
Should you let “Space Jam: A New Legacy” go? If you’re prepared for the long runtime, R-rated references and constant King James hype, it’s well worth a look. If you don’t want to watch it, grab Michael Jordan’s 1996 original from a simpler time.
Despite my doubts, Lebron’s portrayal of Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus and Granny’s portrayal of Carrie-Anne Moss as the Trinity in “The Matrix,” brought a huge smile to my face. Wow!
“Space Jam: A New Legacy”, currently in theaters, is available on demand and HBO Max.