When Bugs Started to Bug Me
This week: 'Space Jam: A New Legacy, 'Loki,' 'Monsters At Work,' 'McCartney 3, 2, 1'
Current Cinema: I loved Bugs Bunny. And Daffy Duck. And Elmer Fudd. And all the Looney Tunes characters. And all cartoons, in general. Growing up, I always looked forward to watching the cartoons, even on our family's black-and-white televisions. In my 20s, after I'd moved to New York City from Los Angeles, watching Robert Zemeckis' Who Framed Roger Rabbit on a big Manhattan theater screen rekindled my affection for animation, and I watched all that was available to me in those non-cable, VHS days.
The death of Mel Blanc in 1989 quieted my Bugs love, so I was not interested in seeing Space Jam when it came out in 1996, nor even Looney Tunes: Back in Action when it debuted in 2003, despite the presence of personal favorite Joe Dante in the director's chair.
Last weekend, though, I was curious about Space Jam: A New Legacy, largely since it was the only wide release, and also because I could watch it on via my (temporarily free) HBO Max subscription. Early in the week, I started to hear reservations about the movie, and I was frankly suspicious that our local press screening was held on Wednesday evening, which often signals that the studio/distributor is willing to screen it for the press but did not want to allow too much negative press to seep out in advance of the release.
Still, I have remained curious since Malcolm D. Lee serves as the director, and he knows quite a bit about pleasing audiences, as he's shown time and time again in his career, even if few of his films have drawn my particular interest.
All this being said and yikes, what a disaster!
Of course, I'm not a parent, and I suspect that children will have a much more generous appraisal of the hijinks on display, as busy and impersonal as they look to my eyes. To me, Space Jam: A New Legacy appears to be a 21st-century monstrosity, filled to overflowing with product placement, studio-affiliated advertising, and very little humor that even tries to appeal to anyone who is over the age of 6.
Six writers are credited for the screenplay, which, as always, suggests that many more (who ended up without a credit) tried to tinker together a script that made a modicum of sense, but I was baffled by many elements. As always with the post-Mel Blanc Looney Tunes concoctions, voice actors do their darnedst to somehow come close to recreating his inimitable voices which some of know so well, and fall flat, in large part because they don't have his comic timing; it's not just the sound of the voice, but also the timing of the delivery, and these hard-working people just don't have it.
Since I currently have HBO Max, I dialed up the original Space Jam, and realized that the new film is closer to a remake than a sequel, repeating jokes and a similar premise, refinishing it with 3D animation and a videogame aesthetic, which I suppose the filmmakers thought would appeal more to the current generation of children. And maybe it will! The 1996 film comes in a bit quicker than the new edition, and also benefits from a glorified cameo by Bill Murray, so that's definitely to its advantage. [HBO Max]
Now Streaming: Last week also saw the conclusion of Loki, which was evidently meant to raise more questions than provide any concrete answers. (No surprises there: this is Marvel we're talking about here, which has resurrected and revamped characters throughout its comic book and movie history.) My biggest question: why did I waste my time watching this series?
To be fair, I enjoyed Tom Hiddleston's performance, in which he and the writers added a few new wrinkles to his screen persona as a friendly bad-boy villain: Hiddleston brings a welcome depth that his supporting roles in the Marvel movies has not allowed. Sophia Di Martino is also quite good, and since she was less familiar to me, she was a welcome surprise. I've really enjoyed watching Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the past, so I can only hope that she'll have more opportunities to show just a little of her capabilities, since she's a fairly one-dimensional character here.
The final episode and its Big Reveal was monumentally disappointing to me; it felt like three people talking and nothing more, as they circled back and forth and around, it came across to me like water going down the drain.
Even so, it's somewhat better than Monsters At Work, a spin-off series that features Billy Crystal and John Goodman in supporting roles, propping up mini-adventures that focus on the office facilities crew. Whew, it's definitely not for me, and I'm not sure any children will find any favor with it either. But I've only seen the first three episodes. Maybe it will get better in the coming weeks? [Disney+]
Also: I'm quite enjoying McCartney 3, 2, 1, which is a conversation between Paul McCartney and producer/musician Rick Rubin that is augmented by film clips. It focuses on the music that McCartney has made, and how he made, what his inspirations are, and so forth. I really love this approach, and the 30-minute episodes are especially delicious. [Hulu]
Upcoming: I'm seeing M. Night Shyamalan's Old this week because I'm intrigued by the premise and the actors (Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps, among others). My review will be posted at DallasFilmNow.com.
The prospect of Henry Golding starring in a GI Joe origins movie (Snake Eyes) that's rated PG-13 suggests it could be a disaster or a pleasant surprise; I'm not rushing out for that one, though.
I'm not aware of any big streaming debuts for the balance of this week; as always, I'll keep an eye out for anything of interest.