Facebook Twitter

SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY: 3 STARS. “frenetic family friendly film.”

What’s up, Doc? A sequel to a twenty-five-year-old movie, that is what’s up.

“Space Jam: A New Legacy,” now in theatres, freshens up the 1996 Michael Jordan live-action/animated sports hybrid film with a new star and a lot of familiar (animated) faces.

The story begins in Akron, Ohio, 1988. Teenaged LeBron James is a gifted basketball player, but is distracted by his Game Pocket Computer and cartoons. A reprimand from his coach—“You’re a once-in-a-lifetime-talent!”—convinces him to focus on basketball and forget about childish things.

It’s a lesson he takes to heart.

By the time he’s grown, and a superstar, he’s all business and doesn’t understand why his son Dom (Cedric Joe) is more interested in coding than crossover dribbles. The younger James is busy too creating a basketball video game to become a team player.

Meanwhile inside the Warner Bros Serververse, Al-G Rhythm, a computer program stuck inside the Serververse, and who looks just like Don Cheadle, has his eye set on LeBron as his way out into the world. “Once I combine King James with my incredible tech,” she says, “I will finally get the recognition I deserve.”

Trouble is, LeBron is not impressed by the studio’s offer to scan him into movies, making him a virtual movie star. “Say yes,” the studio reps say, “and we’ll make mind blowing entertainment forever.”

But it’s a no. “It’s among the worst ideas ever,” says LeBron. “Athletes acting. That never goes well.”

Dom likes the idea, and his curiosity about the process leads him to the Warner Bros tech department, where he and LeBron get sucked into the movie studio’s server and come face-to-face with “nefarious nimrod” Al-G Rhythm.

Trapped in the digital space, the only way out is a high-stakes basketball game. LeBron must recruit the Looney Tunes gang to play against AI’s over-the-top Goon Squad, made up of virtual avatars with super powers and names like Wet-Fire, White Mamba and Chronos.

From the Nike logo LeBron leaves pressed into the ground when he falls into the Looney Tunes-verse, to the “Mad Max,” “Casablanca,” “Austin Powers” and “Matrix” takeoffs, to the endless mentions of Warner Bros in the script, it’s hard not to feel like intellectual property and product placement are driving the story. It’s a wild ‘n wooly world, imaginative and unpredictable but it often feels like marketing rather than a story.

Not that kids will care. And that is who this movie is for.

Director Malcolm D. Lee keeps younger minds entertained with video game and cartoon inspired action, while adults will get the clever Michael Jordan joke and bask in the nostalgia of sees old characters like Bugs Bunny and Marvin the Martian in new situations. There’s also a pretty fun game in spotting the mix-and-march of characters who make up the audience for the big game. I spotted the Gremlins, the flying monkeys from “Wizard of Oz,” Pennywise the Clown and a dozen or so others.

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” smooths away some of the adult edges from the first movie—there’s no Quentin Tarantino references this time around and Lola Bunny, now voiced by Zendaya, no longer wears a crop top—resulting in a family friendly film with good messages about being your authentic self and not what others want you to be and the importance of playing by the rules.

Comments are closed.