Space Jam: A New Legacy

‘Looney Tunes’ was a long running Warner Brothers short film animated series starting in 1930. Featuring an array of characters including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety Bird, the series entertained generations. Many of its catchphrases and cartoons have gone into folklore although their full-length cinematic forays have been few. Last seen in 2003 with the fun ‘Looney Tunes: Back in Action’, they return in this sequel to the 1996 hit, ‘Space Jam’. ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ brings the series to life once again in a mix of live action and fantastical animation as only the Looney Tunes gang can provide.

Basketball champion LeBron James and his son Dom (Cedric Joe) become trapped in a virtual reality world. Run by dastardly A.I Al-G-Rhythm (Don Cheadle), he gives LeBron a chance to save his son. He must win a basketball game against Al’s dangerous avatars, the Goon Squad. LeBron is left with no choice but to recruit the help of the Looney Tunes brigade. Hitting the court alongside Porky Pig, Speedy Gonzalez, as well as Bugs and Daffy, LeBron’s sports skills are sorely tested as he grapples with his eternally crazy co-players.

Whilst ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ is fun, it’s less than it could have been. It may seem churlish to criticize an animated movie aimed at younger viewers, but a film should deliver the goods no matter who it’s made for. One can’t help feel ‘Space Jam 2’ was made by a committee of studio execs desperate to shoehorn as much marketing opportunities as possible. Not only does ‘Space Jam 2’ feature the Looney Tunes brigade, but also every single Warner Brothers character ever made. The appearance of characters from ‘The Matrix’, and even ‘Game of Thrones’ seems inappropriate for a film like this.

When focussing on Bugs Bunny, etc, ‘Space Jam 2’ flies high. It helps LeBron shows some genuine acting skills, unlike previous basketballers turned film stars. Unlike them, LeBron doesn’t embarrass himself and mingles well with his animated co-stars. Cheadle also has fun as the hiss-able baddie, hamming it up for all its worth. The most fun to be had is watching Bunny, Daffy get up to their usual tricks, making one feel you’re catching up with friends you haven’t seen for ages. Their appearance, in between other endless Warner Brothers references, is welcome.

At times ‘Space Jam 2’ feels like a commercial for Warner Brothers properties than a real flick. When the Looney Tunes gangs are allowed to creep into the story, it’s enjoyable, carefully updating their legacy while respecting what’s gone before. It could have been a better reunion with the characters though with the corporate bemouths in control of the Looney Tunes characters the real obstacles they have to overcome.

Rating out of 10: 6


Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brothers have made a virtue of switching genres. Thrillers, comedies and dramas have been part of their repertoire for decades. ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is another gear change as it delves into the realm of farcical comedy. A cross between ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘The Player’, ‘Hail Caesar!’ is another exploration of Hollywood’s excess as only the Coens can provide.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a ‘fixer’ working in Hollywood in 1951. Renowned for his skills in ensuring celebrity scandals never hit the media, Eddie’s services are in high demand. When popular actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) goes missing, Eddie has his work cut out. Along the way he crosses paths with actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who among others may help or hinder Eddie’s increasingly frantic search.

‘Hail, Caesar!’ sees the Coen Brothers at their most frivolous. Unlike many of their previous work, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is very lightweight and occasionally self-indulgent. In its favour is a great cast and stunning cinematography. The glossy technicolour glory of 1950’s Hollywood is superbly rendered as are the few musical numbers which are a lot of fun.

‘Hail, Caesar!’ also says interesting things about the movie business. How religion played a huge part in the way films of the era were made gives the script an intriguing edge. The ensemble bring much panache to their cartoony roles. It’s unfortunate they aren’t given the gift of a stronger script with only a few scenes causing genuine mirth.

The Coen Brothers have done far better than ‘Hail, Caesar!’ with this outing finding them on auto-pilot. It has its moments but considering the talent in front and behind the camera, it should have been a more enjoyable experience. As yet another strike against Hollywood excess it’s decent enough, proving once again how a job in Tinseltown may not be as welcome as first thought.

Rating out of 10: 6