Directed By Malcolm D. Lee
Starring – Lebron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe
The Plot – A rogue artificial intelligence agent (Cheadle) kidnaps the son (Joe) of famed basketball player LeBron James, who then has to work with Bugs Bunny and his band of animated misfits to win a basketball game.
Rated PG for some cartoon violence and minor adult language
– Consistent personality. If nothing else, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” knows exactly the kind of movie it is, and it’s certainly one that puts the “Looney” back in “Looney Tunes” accordingly, with its brand of off-beat, wall-breaking humor that effectively renders more times than not. Everything from on-the-nose puns, to eccentric sight gags, to even commercial parody triggers a harmless innocence from within audience registries that properly channel the elements of the environment competently, all the while providing an edge of sorts to the captivation of the material that solidifies why the Looney Tunes have attained a variety of audience demographics since their inception. It allows a fantastical, logic-breaking approach that is all the more easier to immerse yourself in once you give in to maniacal nature of its appeal, and at the very least emotionally channels the energetic insanity of its fantastical predecessor.
– Eye candy. The one exceptional element to the movie’s production qualities is in its green-screen dominated aesthetic choices, which colorfully absorb the movie’s setting and even our characters in some freshly updated renderings that are very easily transfixing on the eyes. In particular, it’s the various splashes of neon-infused colors and vibrant textures in and throughout the arena that conjured up a three-dimensional explosion of expressionalism in the forefront of the story, playing terrifically into the beautifully bombastic nature of the zany environment accordingly. As for the character upgrades, they too are fleshed out with three dimensional realism that offers a pleasant upgrade to the iconic designs without alienating the familiarity of their respective identities. It’s the one argument where this movie demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible, and certainly paints its way into the big budget, popcorn blockbusters of the summer with enough candy-coated fireworks to emphasize the occasion.
– Don Cheadle. Most of the human performances of the film were disappointing and forgettable to me to say the least, but Cheadle’s frenetic antagonist was a refreshingly endearing channeling for the actor, especially considering the bulk of his career makes up these serious, hard-nosed protagonists that never elicit one ounce of cowardice. Here, Cheadle sheds those layers of expectation for an investment that enthusiastically articulates the fun and exploration in personality that Don constantly unloads to the benefit of his chaotic character, all the while taking some of the weight of exposition off of the shoulders of James, who unfortunately is introduced with some of the most one-dimensional characterization for a jock that I have ever seen. Cheadle is capably up to the task, and when in balance with the rambunctious embodiment of his animated co-stars, brings forth a bigger than life personality that serves as the manifestation of conglomerate greed, whether intentional or not on the part of Warner Bros.
– Enhanced wardrobe. One exceeding circumstance from the previous film is certainly in the finesse of the style exerted in on-court wardrobe choices that played coherently to the color scheme of the movie’s backdrops in presentation. The Tune Squad jersey’s exude a mostly teal encompassing, but choreograph with a fiery red and orange compromise that makes the boldness of the letters pop in a way that faithfully pays homage to third jersey alternates of the NBA, in all of its bold and vibrant texture and color choices that are anything but orthodox. In addition, the fitted cut design not only illustrates the evolution of the game from its twenty-five year predecessor, but also helps accommodate Lebron’s gargantuan stature, outlining his physique in a way that collectively feeds into the dedication of his game, which is every bit physical as it is mental.
– Shamelessly cluttered. Most of what shames “A New Legacy” into reaching the heights of its predecessor is the overwhelming nature and commercialization that hijacks the attention of the narrative forcefully, and sets the film off on an overly-indulgent brand of nostalgia porn that serves no purpose in the context it is indulged upon. Considering Space Jam’s target audience is kids, the visualization and parody of scenes in the worlds of “Game of Thrones” or “The Matrix” feel irresponsibly rendered, especially considering that audience won’t comprehend the message of their intention. In addition to this, the likenesses of these big personalities, like superheroes, Harry Potter kids, and so much more are stitched into the backgrounds of these on-court sequences, which in turn elicit a distracting and alarming nature to the ridiculousness of the cosplay actors, who completely lack the familiarity of the actors who play them in Warner Bros. properties. It cements the movie as a nearly two hour commercial for the many characters and world’s that it holds prominently in its hands, and is the single most force-fed example of product placement that I have seen in quite sometime.
– Groaning dialogue. When I say that this film feels like a lifeless shell of a corporate conception, I mean it in the form of his corny inspirational book of hymns that it calls upon to illustrate an athlete’s essence. These not only feel out of place in a Looney Tunes film, but also entirely heavy-handed to the plain Jane ideals of being yourself that this movie and a hundred other animated movies since the last Space Jam have orchestrated. When Lebron isn’t trying to be a self-help guru to his on-screen kin, meant to double as his guiding hand to us the audience, it equally stumbles during scenes of expression, which only echo in dialogue what we the audience would be able to comprehend if we were awake throughout it all. I can’t say enough how grateful I am that this movie allowed Lebron to react to quite literally everything that happens to him, as his ad-libbing reaches frustrating levels of repetition, making me wonder if the editors used the same scene frequently to convey different happenings.
– Lukewarm registries. Lebron James can act. This has been proven in successful turns in “Small Foot” and especially “Trainwreck”, but something about the channeling of his character here lacks commitment in the emotional beats of the narrative, keeping him from ever escaping the one-dimensional jock stereotype that very few athletes transcend. While the inspirational hymns of the dialogue do him no favors, it’s ultimately the deliveries, as well as absence of charisma, of James that lack believability and depth to the character, outlining a monotony that dramatically undercuts the appeal of this protagonist we’re asked to spend nearly two hours investing in. Beyond James, the work of 13-year-old Cedric Joe is equally wooden and emotionally void during heartfelt moments that the film calls upon him to capably emote through, and the inclusion of Zendaya taking on the legendary Lola Bunny is unfortunately ineffective, as the script’s second half benches her when the story could’ve used a lady’s touch.
– Strange pacing. How does a movie like “Space Jam” nearly reach the two hour mark? it stumbles in its execution to storytelling, which often stretches out the minimal depth in movements of its plot. This is most notably seen during the first act, where we go almost twenty-five minutes without the appearance of one animated counterpart to capture our intrigue. The scenes of “Trouble” with Lebron and his family are about as entertaining as watching Richie Rich complain that his life stinks because he doesn’t have friends, only worse because it isn’t a single solitary throwaway scene, but rather the entire first half hour of the movie’s allowance. From here, there is a second act, but it’s one that comes and goes with the velocity of James’ diminishing hairline, abruptly beginning the high stakes basketball game with an hour left in the movie, instead of further fleshing out the characters and stakes of what almost absently hangs in the balance. The climax is probably the most entertaining part of the movie for me, but one whose predictably greatly undersells the dramatic appeal of its conflict, even presenting a chance to do something memorable with an animated icon, then backing out of because it would be one less property that Warner Bros. could maintain in a film that serves as nothing other than a self-pleasuring exercise of monetary stimulation.
– Strange game. If you’re not lost by the lack of connection to the characters, or the the underwhelming nature of the performances, the script’s decision to make this a different version of a basketball game is one that will undeniably alienate those watching at home. Instead of a regular basketball game where everyone can follow around on points, rules, and strategies accordingly, it instead allows Joe’s character the ability to be a video game guru capable of creating his own game, which Cheadle’s character then makes the game that the sides will play for. This wouldn’t be a problem if the rules were explained thoroughly, but unfortunately it feels like a new rule is being hurled at the screen every five minutes, leaving this feeling like the worst game of make-believe, where the movie is simultaneously asking us to care about the fate of the characters in compliance. There were moves in the game I understood, moves that left me scratching my head, and moves that ultimately made me wish this was just a typical boring basketball game capable of attaining drama because of the elements in the game that we’re all familiar with.
My Grade: 4/10 or D-