1996’s Space Jam was a mix of 2D animation and live action that teamed famous basketball player Michael Jordan with the Looney Tunes cartoon gang (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and pals) and had them playing a high-stakes basketball game against the alien “Monstars.” While the movie didn’t get great reviews at the time, it became something of a cult hit over the years.
It has taken 25 years for a sequel to come along and, unfortunately, it really wasn’t worth the wait. This time, LeBron James is the ball player leading the adventure, and in a lengthy preamble it turns out he is dad to three kids (fictionalised ones, though LeBron is a father in real life) and especially hard on the middle one, Dom (Joe). Dom, you see, doesn’t want to be a basketball player like his father, he wants to design his own video games, which is of no interest to LeBron at all.
After even more story-padding that has LeBron meeting with Warner Brothers about making movies, he and Dom find themselves sucked into the Warner 3000 Server-verse, a virtual space that is ruled by an AI by the name of Al-G Rhythm (Cheadle). Al-G leads Dom away with promises of helping him with his game and LeBron has to navigate this virtual world to find his son.
If you’re still following, this is where the Looney Tunes finally show up. LeBron lands on the Looney Tunes planet where Bugs Bunny lives, and after they steal Marvin the Martian’s space ship, the odd couple head off together. Bugs wants to reunite his pals who are scattered all over the Warner-verse – leading to some very odd scenes where they drop into movies/cartoons to get them, with Yosemite Sam playing the piano in Casablanca and Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote running alongside the cars in Mad Max: Fury Road – and LeBron needs to assemble a team because Al-G Rhythm has challenged him to a game of basketball in return for his son. (No, we’re not sure why, and we don’t think the characters are, either).
It all plays out like an advert for Warner Brothers films and TV shows, especially during the big virtual basketball game in which the spectators are made up of characters from famous Warner products. Quite what little kids will think of audience members Pennywise the murderous clown (from ‘It’), the droogs from A Clockwork Orange (complete with padded codpieces) or the nuns from Ken Russell’s The Devils is anyone’s guess. (Let’s hope they are more focused on spotting Fred Flintstone or Penelope Pitstop who are further in the background).
In fact, quite a lot of it will puzzle kids (and adults, too). As mentioned, it’s not really clear what Al-G has to gain from the basketball game – he’s already pretty powerful, in his universe at least – and the only point to the finale seems to be for LeBron to learn a lesson about being a good dad. When the game does eventually happen, there is so much trickery that it makes no sense at all (though it does look impressive) and parents should be warned that the characters that play for Al-G’s side could freak out younger children (there is one that is half-spider).
All in all, it’s a mess, lacking in laughs and wasting the one thing it had going for it – those loveable, funny Looney Tunes. Give this a miss and watch old cartoons with them instead. And that’s all, folks.
Is Space Jam: A New Legacy suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Under-8s may be frightened by the hybrid basketball players that appear in the game, especially the spider one.
Small children may also find Cheadle’s Al-G Rhythm a little scary.
As well as those mentioned in the review, the crowd at the game also features other grown-up characters including The Mummy, the Penguin (looking similar to the one from Batman Returns), King Kong etc.
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