By Mark Saldana
Rating: 1.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Twenty five years after the first Space Jam entertained families and received a mixed response from critics, the producers at Warner Bros. hope to strike gold once again a similar premise, but with some modern ideas and innovations. While the first installment stars Michael Jordan, the reigning champion basketball player of his era, this new movie stars Lebron James who is arguably the top basketball star of the present. While the formula of matching basketball heroes and the Looney Tunes gang for a fun and entertaining basketball/science fiction movie sounds simple enough, the filmmakers behind this bizarre, barely entertaining, poor excuse of movie manage to bungle things up this time around.
Ever since a child, LeBron James employed a strong work ethic reinforced by focus, dedication, and discipline. It is these values that made James a basketball star. And these are the values that James imparts upon his sons Darius (Ceyair J. Wright) and Dom (Cedric Joe). However, LeBron also envisions both of his sons following him in his basketball footsteps.
While Darius seems content to do so, Dom has dreams of becoming a huge success as a video game developer. This difference comes to a head when LeBron wants Dom to attend a basketball camp that happens to take place at the same as a video game conference where he plans to present a basketball video game inspired by his father. Their relationship will be further put to the test when a powerful Warner Bros. artificial intelligence named Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle) abducts the both of them and holds them hostage in cyberspace. In order to escape and rescue his son, LeBron must battle Al-G Rhythm’s Goon Squad on the basketball court in a virtual game based on Dom’s concept.
Written by Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terrence Nance, Jesse Gordon, Celeste Ballard, and directed by Malcolm D. Lee, Space Jam: A New Legacy is a bewildering mess of movie. With a paper thin plot, a terribly realized villain, and world building that only serves to promote all of Warner Bros. fictional properties, I feel that the six writers, Warner Bros. executives, and the film’s director were the too many cooks in the kitchen that completely spoiled everything. On the other hand, Malcolm D. Lee and a large collective of animators, effects talent, and editors have created a combination of live action and animation that looks absolutely gorgeous and amazing.
It’s a damn shame that the movie’s gorgeous aesthetics are completely wasted on a horrible screenplay. It is also equally disappointing that the lovable iconic Looney Tunes characters can’t seem to get a single Space Jam movie that is worthy of them. Despite this movie’s major inadequacies, the live action cast members give it their best. Call it professionalism, legal obligations, or both, LeBron James, Sonequa Martin-Green, Cedric Joe, Ceyair J. Wright, Zendaya and the rest give performances that range from adequate to above average.
What is most bewildering, though, is the ridiculously amazing villainous turn by Don Cheadle. Cheadle puts all of his heart, soul, and passion into what is essentially a poorly written and terribly conceived artificial intelligence character. Regardless of this, it is Cheadle who shines the brightest in the movie. It is not only bewildering, it is utterly frustrating how fantastic Cheadle is in the movie.
This movie is so bad that it doesnt deserve Cheadle, LeBron, Malcolm D. Lee and it mostly definitely does not deserve the Looney Tunes gang. I know there are young children who are excited about this movie and will drag their parents to watch it. I am sure these same kids will probably have enough fun, but I am absolutely positive that a lot of their parents will be annoyed and frustrated with the movie. Space Jam: A New Legacy is now playing in theaters while also available for streaming on HBO Max. I strongly recommend that HBO Max subscribers encourage their kids to stay home for this one. That way, the parents can either tune out or leave the room. No pun was intended in that previous sentence.