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SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY gets 3.5/10 Warn a Brother


Directed by Malcolm D. Lee

Starring LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Zendaya

3.5/10

Yet another movie sequel no-one asked for, or at least no poor soul deserves. Riding on the popularity of Ready Player One and the rise of self-cannibalistic mega-conglomerates in the film and television business, Space Jam: A New Legacy is certainly not my jam.

Basketball star (LeBron James, playing himself) is sucked into the Warner-verse, the massive server at Warner Bros where all their franchises reside. In this digital world, he must square off against Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle) in a virtual basketball game so he can get his son back (who’s also in the server). When the game begins, people around the world tune in, where they too get sucked through their phone into the Warner-verse as well. If you think none of this makes sense and is happening for no reason, you’re right.

So LeBron recruits the biggest and baddest mofos in the Warner-verse, though the only ones that respond are the Looney Tunes. All your favourites are back – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn, Granny, Speedy Gonzales (wait, I thought he got cancelled?), Marvin the Martian, and the, uhhh, big furry red guy who doesn’t speak and isn’t introduced at all.

Instead of just the Looney Tunes crossover with real life of the original film, this new one has the ultimate privilege of containing intellectual property overload. These popular Warner Bros properties make up a sizeable chunk of the film and its, errr, humour. At first, LeBron and Bugs go space-travelling across this Warner-verse, finding their beloved cartoon friends on planets dedicated to DC Comics, or The Matrix, or Game of Thrones, or even Mad Max: Fury Road, or even Casablanca. If you’re wondering if this is done is any kind of ingenious, self-referential, hilarious, or even just mildly amusing way, the answer is a hefty planet-sized “nope.” The explicit inclusions of these properties feels akin to the rich kid at school who got all the cool new toys and is showing them off in the smuggest, most aggravating way.

And yet, by the time we get to the “basketball” game climax, trying to spot these characters in the audience feels more amusing and engaging than the languid, nonsensical, and meaningless game that’s at hand. If you’re a fan of sport, namely basketball, you’ll be sorely disappointed by the climactic game that’s supposedly played out like a video game, complete with cheat codes and random crap happening just so the score can go ridiculously high. But even as a video game, it doesn’t make sense, with no real understanding or clarity as to who wins and who loses. It’s just a bunch of ugly-looking CGI stuff bumping against each other. It’s not fun or funny, unless you enjoy migraines.

The original Space Jam is no masterpiece, and it too is a cynical cash-grab. But it at least made sense and had stakes at hand that even children would understand and appreciate (and they’d also like the cool monsters). It also stood out back when it was released, as a mash-up oddity that was enough of a curiosity to watch (or revisit all these years later). Its sequel, seemingly coming out at a random time when no one was asking for it, feels more in tune with an even more cynical and exponentially depressing cinema-scape for franchise blockbusters that stimulate audiences only through special effects and franchise recognition alone.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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