Pretty sure I just watched the longest commercial not starring Adam Sandler, but it did make me laugh.
The original Space Jam is a complicated movie. On the one hand, it was part of my childhood and I have a lot of nostalgia for it, it has one of my favorite Bill Murray cameos, and it perfectly encapsulates the year 1996 by being part of a giant commercial featuring Michael Jordan. On the other hand, it is a giant commercial featuring Michael Jordan (who cannot act), it has a lot of jokes that really don’t hold up when you aren’t a kid, and it is so dated that it probably seems absolutely bonkers to a modern audience. They have been speculating about making a sequel to this movie for *checks calendar* over twenty years and now have decided to use the nostalgia cash in at the very end of a pandemic, I guess. But at least this time it’s featuring LeBron James, so that’s different, right?
The story this time is that LeBron James and his son Dom (Cedric Joe) are at a meeting at Warner Brothers Studios. LeBron is a bit overbearing as a dad and wants his son to attend basketball camp rather than game design camp. After the Warner Bros. algorithm, an AI named Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle), pitches an idea that LeBron rejects, Al-G abducts LeBron and Dom into cyberspace (thus the space in the title) and forces LeBron to play basketball against a group of CGI players called the Goon Squad (Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Nneka Ogwumike, Diana Taurasi). LeBron’s only hope is, unfortunately, Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman) and the rest of the Looney Tunes (due mostly to Bugs Bunny being a sociopath).
This movie mostly failed on a lot of levels. On the most basic level, it hurts that this film is little more than a giant add for Warner Brothers properties. They reference Harry Potter, The Matrix, and Game of Thrones (proving this movie was written before the last season of that aired) constantly. The actual basketball game features a variety of cameos by WB animated and live-action characters that boggle the mind, particularly since a number of them are NOT kid friendly (the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange, the Nun from The Devils, Pennywise from IT, etc.). Hell, Rick and Morty have a speaking cameo which, admittedly, was funny. The film constantly has a tone of “look at what we own!” Then there are some of the style choices, most notably having CGI Looney Tunes for the actual game that really never stop looking unsettling. Also, LeBron James, who is a decent performer, is made into kind of a jerk towards his son for reasons that seem completely unnecessary. You can just have his son get abducted, guys, that’s a motive to play the game. Instead, they try to have Dom turn against his dad, which seemed like overkill.
On the other hand, this movie does actually have quite a few legitimate laughs. More than the original, for sure, even if I’m not sure it’s a more enjoyable film on the whole. A lot of them are at LeBron’s expense, something that Michael Jordan probably wouldn’t have tolerated. Michael also probably wouldn’t have tolerated being animated for so much of the film, which LeBron clearly endorsed. There is a Michael Jordan cameo and it is the absolute best joke for me in the film. Then there’s Don Cheadle. Don Cheadle puts way more effort into this than you would expect from someone of his caliber. He has to sell all of the over-the-top and borderline insane stuff that Al-G Rhythm comes up with and he pulls it off beautifully. Also, the Goon Squad is vastly superior to the Monstars in terms of creativity of both appearances and powers.
Overall, it’s not a great movie, but it wasn’t too bad.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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