Film review: Space Jam: A New Legacy
4.5 / 5 ( 2 votes )
Written by Arthur
Jarring tonal mismatches
This bizarrely misjudged sequel will leave both kids and grown-ups bored and disappointed.
Director: Malcolm D Lee Cast: LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe Certificate: U
Michael Jordan. Bugs Bunny. The sheer improbability of the idea behind Space Jam is part of what made the 90s live-action/animation blockbuster such an enjoyable family romp. Fast forward 25 years and Warner Bros has come up with an equally improbable sequel – but it loses any sense of fun or zany humour by trying to justify its own existence.
The concept is a dream pitch for any studio exec who liked The LEGO Movie: LeBron James (playing himself) is challenged to win a basketball game by the virtual heart of the Warner Bros mainframe, known as Al G Rhythm (Don Cheadle), or else he becomes a trademarked property of the entertainment giant, which would give them the right to use him across all their franchises and properties. Complicating things slightly is the fact the basketball game he’s roped into is programmed, in part, by his 12-year-old son, Dom (Cedric Joe), who has been tricked into working with Al G Rhythm because his dad was dismissive of his video game and coding dreams. Oh, and the team LeBron is playing against is full of super-powered figures that are impossible to beat.
Enter the Looney Tunes, whom LeBron recruits to help him save the day, resulting in a repeat of the kind of madcap on-court antics that entertained audiences in the original. Today, though, there’s no novelty in seeing a rushed re-run of those antics, while any attempt at family-friendly levity is undermined by the tonally jarring decision to populate the Warner “Serververse” with characters from Warner’s own IP back catalogue, from Austin Powers and Casablanca to Mad Max, Game of Thrones and A Clockwork Orange.
Mash-ups with The Matrix and Wonder Woman only add to the bizarre creative decisions, leaving the whole thing not only unfunny (an impressive feat for something featuring the Looney Tunes) but also completely bewildering – kids will be confused and parents will be bored. Attempting to play out like Ready Player One, it’s an impressive feat of CGI wizardry but ends up eating itself in a sea of adverts and product placement that feels closer to the cynicism of Wreck-It Ralph than the winking silliness of Space Jam or even the amusing Free Guy. Spending more time thinking about corporate synergy than cracking jokes, it’s like watching a repeat of The LEGO Movie – except everything here isn’t awesome.