Friday 16 July 2021

Space Jam: A New Legacy (Movie Review)

Back in 1997, it seemed like one could barely put on the TV without hearing "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly. The song was so ubiquitous that it pretty much transcended the movie that spawned it. All that is to say that I still consider Space Jam an integral part of that particular slice of my childhood. So as you can imagine, the cynic in me was quite skeptical the moment I learned they were doing a sequel, all these years later. Turns out the cynic had every reason to be.

In Space Jam: A New Legacy, a basketball legend is sucked into a cartoon world where he must lead a team of Looney Toon characters to victory in a high-stakes basketball match. And you'll be forgiven for thinking I'd simply read out the synopsis for the original Space Jam, because the basic premise is the same. The only difference is where once stood Michael Jordan now stands Lebron James in his place.

Following an encounter with a rogue A.I named Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), both Lebron and his son, Dom (Cedric Joe), are trapped in the Server-Verse, a virtual reality world populated by the various Warner Bros. properties. In order to escape, they must each assemble a team to play in a basketball match against one another. And while Dom gets to put together a dream-team of augmented professional basketballers, Lebron gets saddled with the Looney Tunes.

I went into Space Jam: A New Legacy with lowered expectations, hoping to be mildly entertained at best. I mean, it is not as if the original Space Jam was all that great to begin with, even though the 10-year-old version of me had loved it at the time. So I'd channeled my inner 10-year-old as I attempted to enjoy the new movie for what it was. And to a certain degree, there is some enjoyment to be had with it.

The premise of the movie is flimsy at best of course. The whole thing is after all just an excuse to have Lebron James play basketball with some Looney Tunes, much like Michael Jordan had done in the first movie. Which is fine, since once again, no one is going into these movies expecting anything particularly groundbreaking from their stories. But unlike the original film, where I cared about the build-up to and actual game of basketball at its center, this one seemed to lack much of that spark.

I know it is probably the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia speaking, but I'd felt way more invested over the course of the first movie. This time around, I was merely going through the paces and looking forward to seeing more of its updated take on the original's formula. Where the new movie tries to make up for some of those shortcomings though was in the comedy department. Some of the jokes were actually quite funny, poking fun at a lot of Warner Bros. properties. But for every one of those laugh-out-loud gags, there were at least two or three that were eye-roll inducing.

Space Jam: A New Legacy feels like a film that was conceptualized during a board room meeting between Warner Bros. executives. It pays homage to the vast number of Warner Bros properties, but in so doing fails to include much of the sports drama that made the first film memorable. To its credit, it does try to include a story with morals about being your true self. But even that isn't enough to save what is essentially another cash grab at best, and an elaborate ad for Warner Bros. and HBO Max at worst.

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