July 29, 2021 – I was not a fan of the old Space Jam (1996) which I thought worked as a kids movie, but was not substantial enough for adults. This one seems to have the same problems.
The critical and audience reaction was more positive for the first film, mainly because Michael Jordan, star of the first film, is more popular than LeBron James, star of the new film, perhaps due to James' career moves and political activism.
While the animation is much improved this time around, the plot and casting seems to have gotten even worse, with the bad guys on the opposing basketball team looking more creepy than they really needed to be.
LeBron James, who was funny in “Trainwreck” (2015) has some acting experience, and does well in this movie, along with Don Cheadle, a fine actor, who plays Al G. Rhythm, a manipulative artificial intelligence program at Warner Brothers movie studio. Al G. kidnaps James and his son, Dom (played by Cedric Joe of the “Modern Family” TV series) and convinces Dom to play a digital basketball game of his own invention against this father.
Dom, whose passion is designing video games, doesn't like the way his father is pushing him to be a better basketball player, and Al G. uses this resentment to get him to play against his father in the game. The stakes in the game get to be astronomical. It starts with LeBron playing the game to get his son back into the real world, but later, it becomes a game to prevent a lot of people, including LeBron and his whole family, from being forever trapped in an artificial reality.
LeBron recruits Bugs Bunny to be on his team, and Bugs, in turn, recruits other Warner Brothers cartoon characters, like Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Elmer Fudd, Lola Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn and the Road Runner. Voices for many of these cartoon characters were done by Jeff Bergman and Eric Bauza. They do cartoon voices the way the late Mel Blanc used to.
Bugs Bunny and the other cartoon characters are fully fleshed out using 3D computer animation, which has advanced light years beyond the technology available at the time of the first Space Jam movie. This movie is filled to overflowing with computerized digital effects. I did not get to see this movie in 3D, but I've read it was released in 3D in some venues.
The story line is pretty simple. LeBron learns to let the toons be toons, and play the game their own way. At the same time, he learns to let his own son be himself, too. Not a bad message.
There are some cultural references and references to the old cartoons for older fans, but this is really a kids movie. It probably makes enough sense for kids and game players, but, like the first Space Jam, there is not enough meat on the bones of this story to sustain a feature length movie experience. This film rates a C.
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