Space Jam: A New Legacy
- Emma Simmonds
- 15 July 2021
LeBron James teams up with the Looney Tunes for a less than impressive sequel
Does the current vogue for 90s nostalgia mean that 1996's Space Jam is worth a reappraisal? Probably not to be honest, but the makers of this standalone sequel, which once again combines live action and animation, seem to remember it fondly. LeBron James takes over from Michael Jordan as the towering basketballer foil to a gang of anarchic Looney Tunes, while Malcolm D Lee (Undercover Brother, Girls Trip) assumes control of a film that's difficult to get a handle on.
You're generally right to worry when a film has six screenwriters, and the story is about as comprehensible as that suggests. It centres on the relationship between James, playing a fictional version of himself, and his 12-year-old son Dom (Cedric Joe, effortlessly outacting his screen dad), who is an aspiring video game designer with less interest in basketball than his successful sportsman father would like.
When the pair attend a meeting with Warner Bros execs (played by Sarah Silverman and Steven Yeun) about an unusual acting opportunity, they are drawn into the 'server-verse', a virtual space ruled by the power-hungry Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle, enjoying himself) that houses the studio's archive of characters and worlds. In order to escape, LeBron must win a highly unusual basketball match; in his efforts, he's accompanied by hard-to-manage Looney Tunes teammates, with the game's spectators drawn from Warner Bros movies new and old.
There are some belaboured lessons for James to learn about letting your offspring follow their own dreams. The NBA star's performance is not so much unconvincing, as limited to dissatisfaction and befuddlement; in short, he does a lot of frowning. To be fair, it would be hard for even the most seasoned actor to make emotional sense of the spiralling madness he's plunged into, and the script is devoid of decent gags to give things a much-needed lift.
The technical prowess involved in pulling together live action, hand-drawn animation and 3D CGI is no doubt impressive, but the film's wild flights of fancy just aren't very watchable and it's extremely indulgent as it takes us through a rollcall of studio favourites, both family friendly and less so – from The Mask to Pennywise, the Penguin to the Wicked Witch of the West. And a runtime just shy of two hours is far too long for a film this frivolous and messy, with the climactic basketball battle quickly becoming a bore.
Available to watch in cinemas from Friday 16 July.