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Review: 'Space Jam: A New Legacy' (2021) Dir. Malcolm D. Lee

LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green, Jeff Bergman, Eric Bauza, Bob Bergen, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Nneka Ogwumike, Diana Taurasi and Zendaya


25 years after the cult classic 'Space Jam', and 18 years after we last saw the Toons in 'Looney Tunes: Back in Action', Warner Bros goes back to the basketball court for a new generation...

Professional NBA star LeBron James (James) is juggling his sports career with the offer of a new lucrative multimedia deal with Warner Bros., using their new Warner 3000 digital programme to make him a "virutal" star and partner.

When James refuses, the computer AI Al-G Rhythm (Cheadle) kidnaps James' son into his virutal world and blackmails LeBron to take part in a basketball game, where he pits the virtual world against LeBron and his real skill.

in the vaults of Warner Bros., LeBron finds help in the guise of the Looney Tunes stars such as Bugs Bunny (Bergman), Lola (Zendaya) and Daffy Duck (Bauza) to take on Al-G, win the basketball game as the "Tune Squad" and save everyone from the power of Al-G and his software...

Professional NBA Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James is the new star of Warner Bros. to take the crown from Michael Jordan for this "new legacy. While Jordon was the 90s NBA superstar, and James is nothing but worthy to be that superstar today in the sports world, it doesn't have the same "wow" factor as it did back in 1996. Maybe because in the 90s the youth of today wasn't as exposed to so much social media and entertainment as todays generations are; they had no constant access to video, pictures, sports events or interviews. Jordan was surrounded by a restricted media, but it was media that, when broadcast and seen, made him out to be nothing but a high profile US figure because we didn't have Twitters, or Instagrams, or TikToks or Facebooks or YouTubes.

Don Cheadle as the evil Steve Jobs-esque Al-G Rhythm steals the show with his quick fire humour and dastardly ways. It's safe to say it would be a lot harder watch without Cheadle presenting a worth offering opposite James. Not even Zendaya, who lends her voice to Lola Bunny, gets to stand-out amidst the voice talents of Jeff Bergman, Eric Bauza or Bob Bergen doing so many characters.

We have a new array of animated Goon Squad NBA spliced cameo players taking on our new CGI Tune Squad. As a selling point to these films, the basketball sequence that takes an hour to get there is visually impressive and great fun. However, the level of slick animation and live-action doesn't stand out as it did back in 1996, as it's been done before and evokes a very strong vibe of Ready Player One. We have very few unique selling points this time around.

It doesn't help that James clearly has no knack for acting, and can only deliver the requirements of the script with little naturality in his performance. But, then, you don't hire LeBron James for his acting talent!

His appearence in a feature film that also included breakout animation in the guise of Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a huge deal for kids and adults who may not have been able to witness the might of Jordan before, but knew his name. James is a true star of his profession and there is no denying that, but he is also up against millions of top name celebrities that we have access to on a daily basis. Nobody feels special anymore, and for James to appear in a feature film now only looks like a big marketing cash move to go with his social media / marketing dominance, not like the "event" of having Michael Jordan appear alongisde Bugs Bunny and the crew.

Likewise, the animation and characters on offer in the early to mid 90s was just before the rise of Pixar and Disney, and so back then Bugs et al felt current, modern and relevant. Today, sadly, they don't. While their legacy of premier cartoon stars is unwavering, they feel a little more suited to the small screen and DTV offerings with their various wacky, repetetive and zany skits and sketches. They're great fun to watch as Warner Bros. stars championing that classic Mel Blanc era of animation and new CGI, but there's little they offer to compete for young fans attention against the House of Mouse's creations.

Being a Warner Bros. production, we are bombarded with material from their back catalogue and present offerings such as the animated Justice League, Harry Potter, The Matrix, Mad Max: Fury Road, Wonder Woman, Casablanca, Austin Powers... the list is endless and one big playground to juxtapose live-action and animated stars into otherwise classic cartoons and films. These random moments feel a shameless WB showreel that could have worked as a silly 20 minute animated sequel, not a full 1hr 50min effort.

Away from the silly slapstick and the numerous, full on Easter Egg hunting, there is a story of family and self belief in there that makes itself very clear where it will lead to for the climax that we've all seen before. It's about having faith in yourself, faith in your family and faith in your ability, but it's lost between over-long basketball, silly humour and "spot the movie character" in the crowd scenes that make for more fun than watching the court.

Predictable as much as father/son bonding stories come in a recycled version of the 1996 orginal with a few cheap, ironic chuckles along the way thanks to the WB back catalogue and pop-culture.

'Space Jam: A New Legacy' is a co-production between Warner Animation Group, Proximity Media and The SpringHill Company

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