Ever get the feeling of déjà vu? Well you can be forgiven with this new sequel/remake/rehash of the 1996 Warner Bros hit that featured basketball legend Michael Jordan teaming up with the company’s cartoon characters to battle aliens on the court. A New Legacy is more of the same, only with current b-ball star LaBron James in the spotlight.
The story’s given a modern twist, too, as James and the ‘toons face a side put together by Don Cheadle’s Al G. Rhythm (geddit?) a rouge artificial intelligence that lives in the ‘serververse’, the vast computer system put together at Warners so they can come up with the best ideas for movies. Well, there’s nothing like being self-aware, as this manipulative piece of software is set to take over from the suits when it comes to greenlighting projects. Rhythm is put out when James refuses to sign up to his idea of being the studio’s new go-to face of upcoming films, so he kidnaps his son, Dom (Cedric Joe), who his having his own conflict with his father. Dom’s a wiz with coding and has created his own basketball-based video game but his father wants him to concentrate on his hoop game. So Rhythm uses the boy’s game against James by challenging him to shoot some b-ball. Meet the new boss… same as the old boss.
While Space Jam: A New Legacy is a film that no one wanted - the original has pretty much been forgotten - Warner Bros has at least embraced the ridiculousness of the idea. The Meta references go overboard as almost every part of the studio’s history is thrust into the mix, including having the characters interact with clips from some of the classics of yesteryear (we’d like to think this will move the kiddies to discover the likes of Casablanca, but can’t see it happening). Likewise, the crowds during the tournament are a who’s-who of WB - the droogs of A Clockwork Orange rubbing shoulders with Pennywise from IT and (we assume) a nun from The Devils. These moments are clearly there for the parents that Warners hope will be dragged to see the film.
The thing is, though, are the Looney Tunes characters relevant to youngsters today? Sure, they get a CGI makeover when it comes to game time, but as the classic cartoons are absent from modern TV schedules, do they know Bugs and co.? If they don’t, there’s a hell of a lot of gags that’ll be going over their heads.
Ultimately, the story - a father being too pushy and not seeing his son’s talents for what they are - works well and keeps the inspiration going for the less sporty types. James himself just about manages to scrape through the acting side of things without too many cringe moments, but he’s naturally upstaged by Don Cheadle, who appears to be having a lot of fun as the disgruntled AI. There’s also a pretty good Michael Jordan gag, even if you can see it coming. It’s great to see Bugs and the gang back in action, although a rapping Porky Pig is a step too far. In fact, the whole soundtrack makes us yearn to be watching the ’96 film at times, and underlines how bad music is these days. Oh, and get off our lawn.
If you take this iteration of Space Jam as a satire of the entertainment industry, you’ll enjoy it more than you’d imagine and realise it’s not a complete misfire. While it isn’t a slam dunk, it grabs a few rebounds, forces some turnovers, and strings a few outside shots.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is in cinemas now.