Tag Archives: Don Cheadle

Ready Player Bron

Space Jam: A New Legacy

by George Wolf and Hope Madden

You think the GOAT debate about hoop gets heated? Just wait ’til your twitter thread blows up with hot takes on the thespian greatness of Jordan vs. LeBron!

Yeah, that’s not likely to happen.

I can tell you Don Cheadle is a great actor, and he’s clearly having a ball as the high-tech heavy in Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Cheadle is Al G. Rhythm, a (what else?) algorithm inside the Warner 3000 computer system that has designed a can’t miss WB idea for LeBron James. But LeBron is not impressed, so Al decides to get even by pitting LBJ against his own 12 year-old son, Dom (Cedric Joe).

Dom is actually more interested in video game design than basketball, but feels pressured by his superstar Dad to follow in the family business. Al seizes on this rift, pulling father and son into the virtual world, stealing Dom’s design for a basketball video game, and offering a deal.

You guessed it: classic Tunes (featuring Zendaya voicing Lola Bunny) vs. some brand new Goons (basketball superstars including Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and Diana Turasi). A win for the Tune Squad puts the James family back to normal, but a loss means they’ll stay in the “server-verse” forever.

Adding WNBA stars and a new look for Lola are just two of the ways director Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip, The Best Man franchise) and the writing team succeed with an updated premise required for new sensibilities. Sure, the resolution of the father-son tension is predictable, but it manages a schmaltzy level of resonance amid the cartoon nuttiness that we’re really here for.

The antics of your favorite Looney Tunes characters (aside from an ill-advised, rapping Porky Pig) are classically looney, but the script also scores with some topical, self-aware humor aimed at the digital age, a classic Dave Chappelle bit, and LeBron himself (Dom: “Did my Dad leave?” Al: “That’s what he does, isn’t it?”)

And while the original ’96 Space Jam always smacked of product placement marketing, A New Legacy ups that ante, dropping LBJ and friends into any number of Warner properties, from Casablanca to Rick & Morty. Shameless, yes. Fun? Also yes.

As for King James, he follows that standout cameo in Trainwreck with a lead performance that alternates between awkward and decent. He does bring more natural onscreen charisma than Jordan (there’s a reason MJ barely speaks in his TV ads), but I’m guessing the task of acting opposite cartoons didn’t help with James finding a comfort zone in his first lead role.

But LeBron sure looks at home on the court, and once everybody joins him (and I mean everybody – have fun scanning the crowd), Lee rolls out some frantically fun game action with plenty of visual pop. This Space Jam may follow some of the original’s playbook, but there’s enough “new” here to justify the title, and by the time the buckets and anvils start dropping, A New Legacy finds its own fun and satisfying groove.

Kevin Likes a Big Room

Kevin Hart: What Now?

by George Wolf

Maybe you’ve heard the claim that, back in the 80s, pop balladeers Air Supply could in fact “make all the stadiums rock.”

But did they really?

Hard to say, as we never got that live footage which may have provided the elusive evidence of the Supply, a stadium and that aforementioned rocking.

Such unanswered questions will not haunt Kevin Hart. What Now? takes us to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, where in August of last year Hart sold out his hometown stadium for a standup routine featuring rock concert ambitions. A football stadium sold out for a comedy show. Impressive, and though Hart’s third concert film takes a little time to hit its stride, it eventually delivers steady and sometimes gut-busting laughs.

As with 2011’s Laugh at My Pain and 2013’s Let Me Explain, What Now? buffers the standup with additional footage directed by Hart favorite Tim Story (Think Like a Man, both Ride Along films). The opening checks in with Hart some three hours before showtime and mixes parodies of both 007 and The Equalizer (Denzel version) that rate more clever than funny, earning bonus entertainment points courtesy of cameos from Halle Berry, Don Cheadle and Ed Helms.

Once Hart trades his tux for leather and hits the stage, Leslie Small takes the director’s chair, leaning a bit too heavily on quick cuts and overly manipulative audience reaction shots. I get it, there’s only one performer to frame and you’d like to avoid ninety minutes of Chris Rock-style stage stalking, but letting Hart’s set, adorned as it is with jumbo video screens and changing backgrounds, breath a bit would better feed an in-the-moment atmosphere.

The film, like its star, is always likeable, consistently funny and sometimes hilarious. Now that Kevin Hart has rocked a stadium harder than Air Supply, What Now? answers one question while it’s asking another.

Verdict-3-0-Stars