Tuning into the New Jam

To be honest, I never had interest in watching the first Space Jam movie. Cartoons and basketball didn’t seem like a great combination. Recently, I went to the movie theatre to watch the Black Widow movie with a friend and there was a trailer for Space Jam: A New Legacy. My friend and I decided that the movie looked funny and that we both needed to see it. In the week before we planned to get together, I figured it was probably a good idea to finally see the first one. It was definitely cheesy and dated, but it was a fun distraction for an evening and gave me a little background on the concept.

Our Saturday get together comes around and instead of the movie theatre, we decided to stay home and watch it on HBO Max instead. This allowed us to get pizza and wings while watching it on a couch instead of uncomfortable seats. While I enjoy the movie theatre and my TV isn’t as big as their screen, 54″ 4K HD right in front of me is big enough and a lot cheaper. Before I set the warning and start into the details, I will say that we did both enjoy the movie. The story had its obvious similarities to the first one so a level of originality was missing. The change to the 3D imagery of the Warner Bros. characters definitely made the movie a lot more visually appealing than the first one. There were some good humor moments as well throughout pretty much all of the Looney Tunes. Some of the human characters got a bit annoying but I guess it fit the personality they were supposed to have. The film won’t reach the list of top movies this year but I would definitely recommend seeing it for a little fun.

Spoiler Alert

The first big change from the first movie is that the lead human is LeBron James instead of Michael Jordan. After 25 years, you expected that had to change. We still get the same preliminary set-up though with LeBron being introduced as a kid first. He’s playing basketball and while on the bench, he is playing with a Gameboy. His father berates him afterward for not paying enough attention to the basketball game and actually throws the Gameboy in a nearby garbage can. Then, we have LeBron James as an adult treating his kids the same way, especially one who doesn’t seem too interested in being there. Right from the start, I didn’t like LeBron. I’m not a basketball fan and don’t know anything about him other than just recognizing his name. I didn’t even know if he actually had kids until I recently googled it. (He does and his family in the movie is based off his real family.) I don’t know how good of a father he is but I hope he’s a better one to his real family than he is in the movie.

The youngest son in the movie, Dom, seems to be a computer genius of sorts and has programmed a video game that almost seems like a cross between basketball and Mortal Kombat. When LeBron comes into his bedroom, Dom seems to want to hide what he’s done from his father instead of being proud of it. You can see a definite divide between the two. Despite this, they go together to Warner Bros. for a presentation about using LeBron in different media they will be producing. The concepts behind everything were created by an A.I. algorithm named Al-G Rhythm portrayed by Don Cheadle (War Machine from the Avengers movies). The A.I. wants all sorts of praise for what he does and gets pissed off when LeBron says no. When Dom asks about the algorithm and mentions going to an E3 game design camp, LeBron tells him he has to go to basketball camp instead which angers his son who takes off out of the room. LeBron chases after Dom and reveals his excuse for this is that he didn’t “get to do me when I was 12.” The poor baby didn’t get his way as a kid so now he’s going to make his son suffer as well. (LeBron is not scoring any points with characters in the movie or people in the audience at this point.) Al-G manipulates things in the building to lead them into a server room where he somehow opens a portal that pulls them into the computer. Once their in there, he gives LeBron an ultimatum. Beat him in a game of basketball or they’ll be stuck in the computer with him.

Not having a choice, LeBron needs to pull a team together and Al-G sends him to the planet of Looney Tunes. When he gets there, Bugs Bunny is the only one left so they need to go out to the different worlds to get characters. They do this via Marvin the Martian’s space ship. Instead of the referee, this time Marvin is one of the recurring jokes of the movie. While getting powerful characters like Superman and such would be the optimal choice for a game like this, Bugs instead gathers the rest of the Looney Tunes that had been convinced to leave their planet. They are each scattered around different words and found in interesting situations.

In the meantime, Al-G gets on Dom’s good side and convinces him to be on his side and tell him to get LeBron’s respect by defeating him at basketball. Since he doesn’t know what’s at stake, Dom agrees and uses scans of Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Diana Taurasi, Klay Thompson, and Nneka Ogwumike that he had made with his phone in the past to make teammates. The thing is that he modifies the people turning them into the Goon Squad (with changes based off of things about the players in real life) and giving them all sorts of powers making them almost unbeatable. He then amps up his own skills the same way.

Once the teams are pulled together, Al-G pulls people (including LeBron’s family) from all over the world into the computer to watch the game. There are also characters from shows and movies scattered around the audience as well. Al-G tells LeBron he’s holding them hostage as well and everyone will stay in the computer with him if LeBron’s team looses. Of course, LeBron wants to play by the rules and everyone has to be like him which follows his theme so far and (like in the first movie) leads to them falling way behind in score. Though, in this version of the game, there are power-ups, style points giving often much more than 2 points per basket, and stuff like in Dom’s game that influence play on top of the Goon Squad’s natural advantages. Through everything in the game, he finally comes to the miraculous observation that everyone needs to be themselves and that’s how they will win. We then have a ton of wacky antics going on while the Looney Tunes start racking up points that is actually fun to watch. This also helps him learn that he needs to let his son be himself. It takes a while before he can get his son to see this and they finally have a heart-felt moment in the middle of the game. He drops the ball in the middle of the court and hugsDom and, for some reason, no one (not even the bad guys) goes and picks it up. Dom switches teams and, of course, the Looney Tunes manage to eke out a win saving everyone except Bugs Bunny who sacrificed himself to win the game using a glitch in Dom’s game. With everyone back in the real world, LeBron has turns around and tricks Dom by taking him to the E3 camp instead of the basketball one. As he’s walking away, Bugs Bunny shows up to hang out… since cartoons can’t actually die of course.

Despite the annoying personality of LeBron through most of the movie and the usual contrived situations, there are a lot of fun points and interesting game action in the movie. The animosity between the father and son drives a lot of the story, but I wonder how much of the character is actually him and how much that isn’t but will be attributed to him by people who don’t know him. This wouldn’t be an issue in a normal movie where the actors are all playing fictional characters and it really doesn’t matter if you hate one of them. When one “character” is a person playing an at least partially accurate version of himself, it’s a whole different thing. And speaking of real people, Bill Murray plays a small part in it too that could have probably just not happened. He’s tossed in in a couple places for comedic effect that sometimes got annoying and really don’t affect the story in any way. Is this movie something I’d consider adding to my collection or watching again? Probably not. I am glad I did give it a watch as it was some light fun while hanging out with a friend. Plus, despite everything, it was a lot better than the other movie we decided to watch that afternoon.

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