The occasional joke that works, can be actually funny
Very mixed messaging
Seems fundamentally confused
Also, feels like a desperate cash grab
Space Jam has got a special place in the hearts of many. Combining the classics of evergreen cartoon characters who were already pushing 60 in 1996, with the superstar athletic reputation of one of the greatest basketballers of his time (and maybe ever), it featured a now unique combination of sincerity, inspiration, and daring, challenging the idea of how movies could be perceived while also experimenting the idea of merging live action and animation for adults and children this side of Mary Poppins and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Unfortunately, this sequel marvellously misses on just about all of that.
A very odd opening focusing on the demonising of video games (explicitly featuring the Nintendo Gameboy, for some reason) is quickly followed by LeBron James proving he isn’t quite the father as he is the basketballer. Sure, much of this is forgivable—after all, well-meaning but too-tough-on-love dad is a common enough trope, but then the movie continues to double down on this personality glitch repeatedly, like as if they want you to remember LeBron as a bad dad.
And reminding the audience to not like the movie is, oddly enough, something the movie excels at. Not 20 minutes in (still no cartoon bunnies, btw) and we’re treated to an extended trailer of WB’s extensive ownership of various intellectual properties. From the maybe better-left-forgotten Harry Potter franchise (what happened to Fantastic Beasts 3, guys?), to the completely inappropriate for kids Game of Thrones stuff, a sit-in session with the wasted talents of Sarah Silverman and Steven Yeun results in LeBron himself pretty much saying things don’t go well when athletes try acting.
Oh, how true. (‘Cept, this movie leaves you thinking of Michael Jordan as a Shakespearean actor.)
In fact, the entirety of the movie feels like it could have been summarised by this one scene wherein you have non-creatives, essentially the corporate yes men of the studio, desperately attempting to pitch a collaborative effort to an unrelated talent, in hopes of cashing in on their trending fame.
This is not to say the Space Jam: A New Legacy doesn’t have its moments. A clear dig at unnecessary 3D-fication of beloved 2D classics is easily appreciated by many a fan, and much of the moments on the sub-plots with supporting characters are actually funny. Unfortunately, we then have to get back to the movie, and we’re still coasting through a trailer for HBOMax’s (or HBO Go for some of us) library of content.
It doesn’t help when the premise of the movie suddenly shifts to the apparent impression that sports video games are built on the basis of stupid stunts and are all flash with no substance. At times, it almost feels like the movie is inspired less by basketball as a sport, and more by some sci-fi influenced fever dream NBA 2K version. Which seems really out of touch given the leaps in development and technology being made in sports video games to achieve a more realistic experience.
But, hell, Space Jam 2 seems to feel the same way about NBA as a whole. While I’d give them pretty mad props for featuring a couple of WNBA players, the effort kinda fizzles out the moment the entire idea of the sport is reduced to being style over anything else. Literally, “style points” is a thing that matters in this movie.
And then there’s Don Cheadle, cosplaying a Disneyfied version of Ultron (the irony, I know) spouting off about how Warner Bros’ has been essentially using an algorithm to generate soulless, derivative content that isn’t even credited to him. I mean… it kinda feels like a really odd place to make a confession, guys.
Also, Cheadle’s character is named Al-G Rhythm. Funny-ish… until the pun is slapped at you about ten times over the movie.
So, to recap:
LeBron = bad daddy (with final 5-minute transition, ‘cause “plot”)
WB = commercial, soul sucking corporation
Oh, and sports video games? Stupid. And built for ridiculous things like cheating.
And being a basketballer is only cool if you do stuff for style.
Ultimately, however, the kids behind me in the theatre seemed to love it. And the fact remains, like all good superhero movies, these are for kids before all else (I’m really, confused by all the Game of Thrones stuff, though).
While it does seem like this Space Jam may have forgotten all that made the original so good and timeless, the novelty of watching these still beloved characters on the big screen, interacting with live action actors, must certainly be a treat to a whole new audience.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is out now in theatres. Or, y’know, just get HBO Go and watch it there, ‘cause that’s clearly what WB actually wants you to do. And you can just watch the original (with your kids), too!