Deep in the bowels of the Warner Brothers’ “serververse” lives an evil, all-powerful algorithm, Al G Rhythm (brought to life by Don Cheadle, frequently dressed in sequins). This might be the best joke in Space Jam: A New Legacy, the largely unfunny sequel to the 1996 live action-animated movie, which saw NBA superstar Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes characters playing basketball against a team of aliens.
Al G’s masterplan is to digitally abduct LeBron James, of the Los Angeles Lakers (playing himself), turning the “family man, entrepreneur and social media star” into a Warner Brothers trademarked character who could be dropped into any of its existing franchises. In order to escape, James must reassemble the Tune Squad and win a ball game against his 12-year-old son, Dom (Cedric Joe), who has also been sucked into the serververse.
The original Space Jam was derived from Jordan’s TV adverts for Nike, and so there was a winking self-awareness baked into the film. The sequel, on the other hand, seems to earnestly revel in the recyclable potential of the WB archive. Its elastic, mile-a-minute animated sequences insert Lola Bunny (Zendaya; wasted) into the world of Wonder Woman and send Tweety and Granny into The Matrix. James’s natural charisma should allow the film to soar but he’s bogged down by an avalanche of distracting cameos, from Gremlins to Game of Thrones.