Review By Frances Winston
Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee – Starring: LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Khris Davis, Sonequa Martin-Green, Jeff Bergman, Eric Bauza
In cinemas now!
A full 25 years after Space Jam comes this sequel. Although in the absence of Michael Jordan, current LA Lakers star, LeBron James, takes the helm, playing a fictionalised version of himself.
If you’ve seen the original, then you know the gist of this movie. There is a basketball game, involving LeBron and Looney Tunes characters, which comes about via the showcasing of some other Warner Bros. characters.
Specifically LeBron (who is playing a fictionalised version of himself here) and his youngest son Dom (played by Cedric Joe – not his real life son) find themselves trapped in the Warner 3000 Server-Verse, a virtual space ruled by a tyrannical AI by the name of Al-G Rhythm (Cheadle).
Rhythm uses the fact that father and son are sparring, about Dom’s desire to learn more about computers rather than basketball, and pits them against each other. So LeBron must trawl the WarnerVerse looking for players for an epic match against his son, that will decide the fate of the Looney Tunes, and of millions of people who tune into the game.
Warner’s have a humongous back-catalogue of movies and characters, so at times this feels like sensory overload. There are fleeting references to epic classics, such as the Wizard of Oz and Casablanca, as well as their superhero fare, such as Wonder Woman and Superman, but it is the Legendary Looney Tunes who really take the lead here, ably headed by Bugs Bunny.
It is ironic that one of the biggest basketball stars in the world gets overshadowed by an 80-year-old cartoon rabbit ,but that is indeed the case. LeBron actually seems to seal his own fate, when he comments early on in the movie that athletes acting never works out.
Whereas the first movie felt original and was a spectacle, this seems very much focused on the branding. A certain sportswear brand have definitely invested heavily in it, and Warner’s themselves take every opportunity to cross-promote their other brands.
The animation is fantastic, and seamlessly works with the live-action scenes. And this has some lovely moments, and it is also great to see some classic characters again. However, the ‘big game’ itself (modelled on the fictional game created by LeBron’s fictional son) is extremely complicated (and I say that as a former basketball player, and someone who qualified as a mini-basketball referee).
Le Bron for his part gets that this is tongue in cheek, and is extremely engaging. But he is upstaged at every turn by the Looney Tunes – and also by Cheadle, who seems to relish being able to go full-on Panto villain mode as Rhythm. It’s a different studio, but at times he seems to be drawing inspo from Aladdin’s Genie.
Also, at pretty much two hours, this is extremely long for a film that is specialising in throwing things, that require a short attention span, at you.
This is occasionally entertaining, and at its best when the classic characters are allowed to do their thing. The first movie was a big hit, and I’m sure the star power of LeBron will draw people in. But ultimately, this is a PR exercise, designed simply to promote other WB franchises and characters, and it feels somewhat shameless for it.
See trailer below: