Joining the ranks of decades delayed sequels is Space Jam 2 the follow up to the 1996 film starring basketball legend Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes cartoon favourites. But with Jordan now 58 years old his days of playing with balls and dribbling is behind him although he may well be at it again once old age sets in. This time its modern day basketball legend Lebron James who, in Space Jam 2, plays ….well….basketball legend LeBron James. Starting in 1998 with a teenage LeBron loving basketball but to his detriment he is also too interested in playing with a Gameboy, though not in the same way as Michael Jackson might. Fast forward to today and he is married with a young family he’s keen to see his sons follow in his footsteps but his youngest son Dom (Cedric Joe) is far more interested in designing computer games and to that end he has how own online basketball game which is proving popular. But his father, knowing how it almost distracted him from his own career, is keen to divert his son’s attention away from the computers.
However all is not well all is not well when a rogue A.I. programme named AL. G. Rhythm (and that’s one of the films better jokes and is an indicator of what to expect) played by Don Cheadle who kidnaps Dom. Morphing into an animated version of himself Lebron is dragged into the world of the Warner Brothers cack handedly titled, ‘server-verse’ where he finds himself in order to rescue Dom and to do that he has to play against his own son and a team of seemingly unbeatable players fielded by Cheadle. The stakes are high because if he loses his son stays in the server-verse and LeBron loses his family.
Right from the start Space Jam starts with some less than low key Warners Brothers product placement and the Looney Tunes led by Bugs Bunny & co are as good fun as ever to watch initially appearing as their standard animated selves only to be transformed into a version heavily influenced by the advances in Pixar animation with the characters becoming a hyper stylised version of what we love with almost photo realistic fur and feathers.
But it’s the latter half of Space Jam 2 that is taken up with the basketball game that has far more of an appeal to Americans than to the Brits and unusually it’s the background scenes that may hold far more interest. It’s because the studio appears to have taken the opportunity to use the film as a major bit of product placement for their admittedly impressive back catalogue of films and you don’t have to be too eagle eyed to spot in the crowd figures from films as diverse as The Wizard of Oz through Batman villains to The Matrix and even King Kong. In that respect it’s not dissimilar to Ready Player One and its retro background extras.
The combination of the cartoon characters with the gamer designed basketball match is impressively rendered and in keeping with the Looney Tunes there is the to be expected chaotic cartoon craziness that will delight younger children. But it’s the thinnest of scripts which somehow took six screenwriters to come up with and there’s really only one half decent joke here which concerns Michael Jordan. As a US family film it inevitably though rightly plays upon the importance of family and a father-son relationship but Space Jam 2 is more perhaps more successful at reminding audiences what a great back catalogue of films the studio has.
Here’s the Space Jam 2 trailer…….