To say that I was concerned about this movie since its first trailer would be an understatement. Bringing the Looney Tunes into the world of 2021 while also making a sequel to the much beloved original would be no easy feat. While Michael Jordan was a household name for his basketball and philanthropic efforts, LeBron James, well not so much. However it was all sounding like a great return to form for Bugs Bunny & co, that was until the first trailer dropped and the filmmakers decided to go all Ready Player One on us, introducing a Server-verse and bringing in loads of other WB franchises into the frame. While this may seem like a great idea, what could it possibly offer for the world of Space Jam? The answer to that question I will get to a little bit later. It is definitely a joy to see the Looney Tunes back on the big screen, it is a shame that this was the catalyst for their re-introduction to the modern world. The film focuses way too much on Lebron and the human characters and takes way too long to get the Looney antics. That being said the Server-verse stuff mixes with characters from Looney Tunes beautifully and will be an absolute treat for adults.
Story wise the premise should be no surprise. LeBron is struggling to connect with his son Dom (Cedric Joe) LeBron wants Dom to focus on basketball, while Dom has built his own video game and wants to pursue that as his career. At a pitch meeting at the Warner Bros. studios, the architect of the Warner 3000 software Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle) wants to use LeBron and his huge ego, I mean social media following to free himself from the Warner Bros. server-verse and take over the world. Things don’t go to plan and Al G takes Dom hostage forcing LeBron to a game of basketball to win his families freedom. Not being left out in the cold, LeBron is sent to TuneWorld to recruit a team to help him win the game. On lonely Tune World Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman) has been separated from the rest of the gang after Al G. Rhythm promised them a better life in the Server-verse. Together LeBron and Bugs must travel throughout different worlds to reunite the Looney Tunes before the basketball game beings.
This demographic is really hard to nail it is definitely designed with families in mind and younger children for sure. However there are many times in which younger audiences will have no idea what the film is talking about and referencing to the delight of adults. Seeing Wile Coyote and Road Runner in Mad Max Fury Road or Yosemite Sam in Casablanca is incredibly entertaining for me but maybe not so much for younger audiences. That being said there is a lot on offer for the kids, with the Looney Tunes staying true to their looney selves that will no doubt be a great catalyst for both the new and classic cartoon shows.
Visually the film is incredibly beautiful. The animation of the characters in both their 2D and 3D form is incredibly detailed and the mix of characters really pops off the screen. Any concern about the Looney Tunes being rendered into 3D animation should be alleviated as the team at WAG (Warner Animation Group) have done an exceptional job. It is worth noting that the background of characters from other Warner Bros. properties like The Jetsons, The Flinstones, Top Cat, Yogi Bear, Magilla Gorilla, even Penelope Pitstop all make several blink and you miss it moments and make compelling arguments to exist in future films. (I’m sure there are many more, future re-watchings will I’m sure reveal more)
It’s not just Hannah Barbera characters that get a look in here, many other franchises like The Mask, Game of Thrones, Pennywise from IT and DC comics characters all litter the sidelines of the basketball game. In comparison to their CGI counterparts, they look like they hired a bunch of cosplayers to imitate their properties which feels like a cop out and disservice to these properties. The other issue I had with this is while it was cool in parts, there really was no reason to bring all the other franchises in. Also a side note to Warner Bros, can you really stop trying to make The Iron Giant a thing? That is, unless you are going to do a modern day remake or sequel or something with the property? Please?
While this sequel definitely won’t please everyone, it does successfully bring the Looney Tunes into 2021 and by tieing them into existing WB properties, allowed the filmmakers to have some fun with mixing old and new characters in famous movie scenes that film buffs will get a kick out of. The younger audience will enjoy the antics when Bugs and co get Looney giving a lot of slapstick and classic Looney Tunes moments. LeBron is definitely a presence in this film due to his stature, however director Malcolm D. Lee kept trying to force him to be funny and while he can throw a ball, he just doesn’t have any scrap of comedic timing. Fortunately the same can’t be said for Cedric Joe who is incredibly charismatic and helps you feel sympathetic to his quest to make video games. Don Cheadle is clearly having the time of his life as the silver suit wearing villain, being extremely flamboyant and theatrical. While he never feels like he poses any real threat, his performance was fun to watch and his chemistry with Cedric Joe was a joy to watch.
While Space Jam : A New Legacy may not win over fans of the original film, inside this movie exists a good Looney Tunes movie that could have worked without the basketball and Space Jam stuff. Exploring the Warner 3000 Server-Verse could serve them well with the Looney Tunes leading the way, however tacking on the Space Jam stuff just felt like they were trying to make two movies and failed at both. The older audience will enjoy the nods and winks to WB film history while the kids will get a kick out of the slapstick antics of the Looney Tunes.
This is no perfect sequel, the first 40 minutes of the film focusing on the human characters feels like 2 hours. It is needlessly long and a steadier hand in the editing room could have fixed this right up. Centering LeBron as the star player is great for the basketball community, however a few more acting lessons would have perhaps helped this film. That being said it is Space Jam, if you are a fan of Looney Tunes or movies in general, go, turn your brain off and enjoy the ride that offer some truly spectacular visuals.
Space Jam.: A New Legacy is showing special advanced screenings from July 8.
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