(2021) (LeBron James, Cedric Joe) (PG)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Comedy: An NBA superstar must put together a team of Warner Bros. cartoon characters to take on his son's team in a digital universe basketball game.
NBA superstar LeBron James (LeBRON JAMES) hopes that his youngest son, 12-year-old Dom (CEDRIC JOE), will follow in his basketball footsteps, but the boy is more interested in playing and creating video games, which puts them at odds.
That comes to a head when Lebron is invited to the Warner Bros. studios to be part of WB 3000 where his digitized form will help sell the new offering. While Dom is naturally impressed, LeBron thinks it's one of the dumbest ideas he's ever heard. All of which infuriates the computer algorithm that's created that "serververse," Al G. Rhythm (DON CHEADLE), who digitizes and sucks both Dom and LeBron into that world.
Al easily wins over the boy's alliance and tells his dad the only way he can get him back is to play a game of basketball against his son. LeBron thinks that will be a slam dunk, but then learns that while Dom is going to use digitally enhanced versions of real-life pro players, he's going to have to rely on Bugs Bunny (voice of JEFF BERGMAN) to put together a team of WB cartoon characters as his team. That includes Lola Bunny (voice of ZENDAYA), Daffy Duck (voice of ERIC BAUZA), Granny (voice of CANDI MILO), and a host of others.
With the odds stacked against him and his team, LeBron tries to figure out how to win and thus free himself and his son from the digital world -- and prevent the cartoon characters from being deleted forever -- or risk ending up stuck in the serververse forever.
- OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
As a movie reviewer, I'm sent all sorts of promo materials and swag from the studios, including -- most recently -- a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle featuring DreamWorks Animation's characters. It's fun to look at and try to recognize and name all the figures, although I imagine it will be yet another puzzle that's more than a bit difficult to literally and figuratively piece together.
If you tried to put all those characters into a single movie, however, it would be something of a blink-and-you-miss-it experience, with most relegated to cameo appearances or fleeting glimpses at best. You know, like what occurred in Steven Spielberg's version of "Ready Player One" back in 2018.
We get more of that, although relegated just to Warner Bros. movies and characters this time around, in "Space Jam: A New Legacy," the long-gestating sequel to 1996's "Space Jam." With most of the WB cartoon characters reprising their roles -- and lots of other WB movie characters appearing in the crowd to watch the big game -- the human side of things has a new starting lineup.
That means no Michael Jordan who's been replaced here by LeBron James. Like his predecessor, he similarly plays himself, an NBA superstar who's sucked into a digital universe where he must play against toon characters based on other contemporary basketball pros.
And he's doing so in hopes of saving his 12-year-old son, Dom (Cedric Joe), who's similarly been sucked into the "serververse" by Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle, hamming it up). He (or it) is an anthropomorphized computer algorithm that's created a digital world known as WB 3000 and isn't pleased when LeBron declines the offer to have a digitized version of himself help hawk the new offering.
Accordingly, he pits the father and son against each other, what with them having already had a falling out over the son wanting no part of following in his dad's footsteps. Instead, he wants to design video games like his recent one featuring a modified version of basketball (that, natch, will obviously come into play at the end of the film).
With Dom creating monster-modified versions of real-life players for his team, LeBron must rely on Bugs Bunny to get his old and seemingly unlikely to succeed cartoon team back together (featuring the likes of Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Granny, Tweety Bird, and so on).
While kids might enjoy this offering from director Malcolm D. Lee, adults with a nostalgia for the old Looney Tunes shorts will likely be disappointed by what the sextet of scribes -- Juel Taylor & Tony Rettenmaier & Keenan Coogler & Terence Nance and Jesse Gordon and Celeste Ballard -- have fashioned for most of those characters, which often isn't much more than lip service.
Movie and pop-culture geeks likely will, well, geek out over spotting and identifying all the Warner Bros. movie characters that show up that include, of all weird things for a PG-rated movie, the droogs from "A Clockwork Orange" and Pennywise the scary clow from the "It" pics. But that grows old rather quickly once one realizes it's little more than a matter of solely inserting as many such characters as possible.
And like its predecessor from so long ago, this offering pales considerably when compared to the human and toon pairing found in the even older "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" That one put a clever, creative, and fun spin on the real lives of cartoon characters inside an engaging story.
Here, that never happens, and the result -- since the pivotal game goes on for so long in the film's second half -- is like watching others play a video game. Yes, I realize some people enjoy that, but doing so isn't my jam. Nor is "Space Jam: A New Legacy" that rates as just a 4 out of 10.
Reviewed July 6, 2021 / Posted July 16, 2021
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