Saturday, July 17, 2021

Space Jam: A New Legacy


1998. A young LeBron James can’t concentrate on his basketball training due to distractions brought about by videogames. Two decades later, he is the king of the court and now forcing his basketball legacy on his son Dom (Cedric Joe) who wants to be a game developer. At the WB studios in Burbank, a rogue AI called Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle) hatches a world domination plan but is thwarted by James’ reluctance to participate in the algorithm’s planned film career for him. Vengeful, the AI lures father and son into the WB Serververse and pits one against the other through a virtual basketball match, on which the fate of the Looney Tunes depends. Bugs Bunny searches far and wide to get the gang back together and form the basketball team necessary to buy all of them their freedom back, but Al-G Rhythm has more tricks up his sleeves. Does the Toon Squad have what it takes to win?

Is Space Jam: A New Legacy entertaining? Yes. Wildly. Is Space Jam: A New Legacy necessary? Debatable. If anything, this feels like a two-hour long self-aware advertisement to promote HBO Max, what with Warner Brothers flexing their entire franchise catalog to potential subscribers. If the idea is to grow HBO Max’s consumer base, then it is safe to say that they have probably succeeded, because there is simply no way for this movie to score a big win at the box office given the current circumstances, as well as a lack of reason credible enough for its very existence. As a film to be streamed at home, though, it’s just fine.

Props to Cheadle for committing to his character. Perhaps this is exactly what was missing in the 1996 movie. Bill Murray would have served that purpose had his participation not been a glorified cameo. Here, the villain is very much a part of the story, even though we could never really understand his motives. He is an AI after all, which makes the character one-dimensional to be totally frank. As for the rest of the cast, it’s the same ham acting we already saw in the original film. At least they preserved that from the first installment. Consistent!

Is this a sequel or a remake? Bugs and Lola both allude to a been-there-than-that experience which hints that this is a sequel. Nonetheless, there is no continuation of storylines so this feels more like a soft reboot with scarce references to the original. We do get to see those tiny aliens for a few seconds in two or three blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos. Michael Jordan also appears, but they couldn’t get the basketball player so they asked the actor to be his proxy instead. That bit was funny, I must admit. For a while there I really thought it would be legit.

As for the premise, it’s the same old storyline focusing on a basketball tournament with the Looney Tunes as part of the team. One added aspect is the theme of fatherhood which was not fully explored in the Michael Jordan version. While cliché at best, there is still some value to be derived from it, specifically that of parents forcing their life choices on their children. Cheesy as it may seem, I am guessing this film could be a good movie-bonding date for fathers and sons with daddy issues.

The animation has also been updated, perhaps in an effort to appeal more to a millennial fanbase. The setting is more on virtual reality than traditional animation, although the runtime seems to have been equally divided to focus on live action, animation, and augmented reality. More or less, that is the only add-on value this movie offers, a good look at the evolution of CGI as seen through various types of cinematic storytelling techniques. Other than that, this remake/sequel just feels totally unnecessary.

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