This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows LeBron James in a scene from “Space Jam: A New Legacy”. (Images from Warner Bros via AP)
Photo: Associated press
LeBron James is the greatest NBA player of his generation, but in the debate between who the GOAT is, he has long been trying to step out of the shadow of Michael Jordan.
James’ championship with the Lakers last year gave him four NBA titles, but Jordan has six. And it could even be argued that the title that James won with the Lakers last year in a pandemic fanless bubble in Florida was overshadowed by the cultural event that was “The Last Dance,” the ESPN / documentary series. Netflix in 10 games on Jordan’s championship years that left a nation under lockdown.
Now, James directly challenges Jordan in the world of toons. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” produced by Ryan Coogler is a reboot of Jordan’s unlikely 1996 box office success “Space Jam”, in which Jordan, then retired and playing baseball, joined forces with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and his friends to defeat aliens in a hoops game and save his NBA friends including Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing.
In the new one, an AI deep in the bowels of Warner Bros.’s “server-verse”, the center of its streaming empire, kidnaps James’s son, Dom (Cedric Joe), an unwilling video game genius. not follow in his father’s basketball footsteps. The AI, named Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), promises James that he can get his son – and the hundreds of millions of people who have been sucked into the toon-verse through an app – back if he beats his team “Goon Squad” in a basketball game.
Among the crowd to watch out for and worry about is James’ wife Kamiyah (Sonequa Martin-Green, who has a lot less to do here than in “Star Trek: Discovery”).
PG rated: For the violence of cartoons, soft language
Operating time: 115 minutes
Or: Opens July 16 in theaters and starts streaming July 16 on HBO Max
** 1/2 (out of 5)
James is due to assemble the same team as Jordan – Bugs, Daffy, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Granny, Lola Bunny (voiced by Zendaya) and others (Pepé Le Pew, whose crop was canceled, was left off the roster ). Meanwhile, Al G. steals the basketball skills of some of the game’s greats – including Warriors forward Klay Thompson, Oakland native and Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, his teammate of the James Anthony Davis’ Lakers and WNBA stars Diana Taurasi and Stanford alumnus Nneka Ogwumike – and turn them into monsters.
Warriors fans will be happy to know that Thompson, at least his lively alter-ego, has apparently fully recovered from his Achilles injury. Thompson plays a character called Wet-Fire, who can transform into water or fire as needed – a character inspired by the “Splash Brothers” nickname given to him and his Warriors teammate Stephen Curry.
Basketball is, of course, nonsense. It’s more than “The Matrix” than James Naismith, but the kids will love it. The game is called by TNT announcer Ernie Johnson and Lil Rel Howery (“The Carmichael Show”).
Crowd applause is a slew of properties owned by Warner, including Batman and Robin, King Kong, Yogi Bear, and many more who have apparently used their connections to secure court seats. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is nothing more than a product placement vehicle selling the Warner Bros. brands. and Nike.
A bit of fun at the start of the film, in which the executives of Warner Bros. (Steven Yeun, Sarah Silverman) are trying to sell James by making him appear virtually in films so as not to interfere with his basketball career, James has inserted in various Warner films from “Mad Max: Fury Road” (LeBron with a mohawk) to an Austin Powers film.
At one point, we get a close-up of Ingrid Bergman, in beautiful black and white. It’s a scene, of course, from “Casablanca”.
“Play it Sam,” she said.
The pianist is Yosemite Sam.
James looks good in Humphrey Bogart’s tuxedo, however.
The original “Space Jam” was a delight out of nowhere, and Jordan made room for fellow live-action co-stars, such as Bill Murray, Larry Bird, and Wayne Knight. He was also in and out in 87 minutes; “Space Jam: A New Legacy”, directed by a good filmmaker, Malcolm D. Lee (“Girls Trip”, “The Best Man”), lasts 115 bloated minutes, its chaos and its madness diminish as it goes .
There’s a really inspired moment: Down a lot at halftime, demoralized James and his toons openly want Michael Jordan’s help. Suddenly the lights go out. The ominous introductory music of the Chicago Bulls of the 90s is played. A projector silhouetted an advancing silhouette.
This is… Michael B. Jordan. The actor.