Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Starring: LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Khris Davis, Jeff Bergman, Eric Bauza and Sonequa Martin-Green
It genuinely feels like there has been word on a new Space Jam film in the works forever. It’s always been something rumbling on the internet, and I don’t think anyone thought it would ever actually happen. It may have taken a quarter of a century, but for better of worse Space Jam 2 is finally here. I want to start by saying that I haven’t seen the first one in a very long time, I don’t remember much about it, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t like it. I was more of a Back in Action fan. I don’t think it matters to be honest this one is completely stand alone with only a few references to the first one, including the poster in the background. It’s strange that the first one exists in this one, and the Looney Tunes characters remember it.
LeBron James takes centre court in Space Jam: A New Legacy. The film starts with James as a child, showing the enormous pressure that was put on him, we then get a catch-up of his career to date to show that the pressure paid off. He’s a successful basketball player with children of his own, who he is now putting pressure on to be the best they can be. The main plot thread is something we’ve all seen before countless times, a father who doesn’t quite understand his children in some way and learning to grow and become a better dad. The second this film starts you know what the final moment is going to be. It’s cliched, but doesn’t matter, timeless stories are classics for a reason.
James has a super fan in the form of Al-G Rhythm, played by Don Cheadle (Avengers), an A.I. that Warners use to create their new projects. It’s a nice joke about how algorithms rule the content that we consume. Al-G, who has dubbed LeBron ‘King James’, has created an idea to copy James and put him into existing properties. James takes his son, who he is struggling to connect with, to the meeting at Warner. After the idea is rejected, Al-G traps James and his son in the server. The only escape is to create a team and beat Al-G’s team at a game of basketball. If he loses, they have to stay in the virtual reality forever.
There are so many references in this film, that it feels not only an advert for everything Warner owns, but them showing off that they can stand up against Disney with their list of I.Ps. From Harry Potter and Game of Thrones to A Clockwork Orange and Austin Powers, with a little Rick and Morty thrown in for good measure. The references are a dime a dozen and while some of them get a chuckle or a smile, there is too many. However the music from each franchise, combined with the different animation styles when the characters travel between them is a nice touch.
The reason this film doesn’t work is that it’s all building up to a basketball game, and when it finally happens it isn’t exciting or entertaining. There are no stakes, you know who’s going to win. It isn’t a gripping match, it’s just a few scenes of people scoring points with an ending you know before you even go to see the film. Knowing the ending, doesn’t mean that it can’t be good, but it’s just not presented in a very interesting way. It’s not fun or engaging. For the most part it feels like it’s there because it has to be.
The screening that I was in was full, the fullest since cinema have reopened, including Black Widow. It was obvious that the kids were enjoying it, with laughter and awe sounding from every direction. That’s who the film is for and it clearly works. If you’re going to see this with children, they’re going to have a great time. Other than a boatload of references there isn’t much here for anyone else. It’s not a bad film, but it’s nothing great. This is probably going to be forgotten fairly quickly.