By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Space Jam: A New Legacy hardly feels like a true sequel when there’s very little connection to the original. Instead, it’s an introduction of Looney Tunes to Generation Alpha. That is, those kids born to a different time never had the chance to laugh along to the antics of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and gang. When these toons moved to specialty networks for regular airplay, not everyone is going to know them like us Gen Xers.
This bit of realization makes this sequel to a 25-year-old product feel very different. It’s not about using the latest animation technologies so LeBron James is made to feel like he’s right there with the toons. He spent half the time around LED walls instead of green screens to have a sense of where the characters are in relation to everything else.
This film doesn’t score as high when the cartoon humour differs from those original Mel Blanc works. Even though we get a brief connection to the first film, it seems like the long time away has made them forget how to play basketball. They don’t even recall how they were ‘abducted’ the first time and were forced to perform in this exhibition sport forever.
This time, Dominic, the fictional son of LeBron, and father is taken by an angry computer mainframe intelligence, named Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle). Pops has to play one huge digital simulation to not only save the boy and also win the freedom of many to leave The Matrix. Warner Brothers owns this franchise created by the Wachowskis and I thought it was odd the studio’s multiverse is called the server-verse instead. I would’ve preferred that the story made entering the digital domain real.
When considering this studio also manages Ready Player One, I would’ve enjoyed a reveal on how this movie can hail the coming of OASIS. This film misses one tremendous opportunity in its realization of how dangerous an AI can be–or rather in creating that virtual world where people can interact with varying properties.
Stranger still is in how Tune World, the realm where cartoon characters live, is not named Toon World. Roger Rabbit might have taken over that space and is not letting anyone take ownership of the name.
Everyone who’s been managed by Warner Brothers Studios is worried about Al-G Rhythm’s master plan. His goal is not to digitize the real world but had he been more megalomaniacal, he’d be recruiting from the many properties to create his rival basketball team instead of summoning new computer creations.
By the time this film reaches the epic match, the wait is well worth it. We have a souped up take of basketball which uses crazy power ups from Mario Kart. The cartoon team looks terrific in 3D land, and Al-G Rhythm finally shows just how powerful he is. Unlike Skynet, his goal is to become like Facebook. Although he doesn’t want to enter the real world, he wants to bring those residents to him! Had the story emphasized this threat, I’m sure Neo would’ve figured into the story too. It wouldn’t be a cross culture jam, but a save the universe scenario!
The story is more about the unstable family connection between father and son over anything else. At least it has the heart in the right place. Sometimes even that additional satire doesn’t fit in when that’s a world apart. I liked the stab at monetizing everything in products where a person doesn’t belong but the irony is that LeBron is an action figure! The toys are out there and I’m sure his appearance in other product endorsements is coming soon too!
3 Stars out of 5