×

Life Through the Lens: A tale of two sequels – ‘Space Jam,’ ‘The Boss Baby’

“The difference between try and triumph is just a little umph!”

***

Expectations are a tricky thing. Sure, they guide efforts and provide perspective … but they also stain outcomes and emphasize failures. They are natural and unavoidable … but sometimes nasty and unfair.

As an individual, personal expectations are difficult to manage and maintain, often leading to a special type of frustration. As a parent, a new challenge surfaces: with the miracle of childbirth comes the trial of protective expectations. Once you lay eyes on that little life, you begin to form these “ideas” in your head, these “wishes,” these “hopes.” Before you know it, you are wading through a rising tide of expectations.

I just reread Jonathan Franzen’s 2001 book The Corrections, and I was struck at this very idea: with relationship comes expectations. The book covers many relationships, but the ones that hurt/heal me the most are the parent-child relationships. Alfred and Enid are now parents to three grown children; they have loved each child to the best of their abilities … but their (sometimes unreasonable) expectations for those children have left each relationship bruised and challenging. Their oldest son Gary resents the successes in his life because of the strained-similarities to his father’s aloof ambitions. Their middle child Chip refuses to share his life for fear of disappointment and disapproval; he feels forced to hide, to lie, and to disappear. Their youngest child Denise has always felt outcast, although she would never say as much. Her desperation for approval has led her to major career victories … then inexplicable self-destructions, to passionate lovers … then discarded strangers; she can’t seem to impress above the expectations.

As Alfred’s health deteriorates, Enid’s perception of reality wanes, and each child is faced with the once parental giants they have, for so long, feared and resented … whose acceptance they have craved but never achieved.

Expectations, both spoken and inferred, have destroyed this All-American family. Expectations have emptied the parents — expectations have refused the children – expectations have labored the conversations — expectations have soured the memories. If “what is” is never enough, what is left? If “what should be” is the unwavering end, there is no value in what is already possessed.

Expectations may be human nature — they may be inevitable — heck, they may even be necessary … but, unchecked and unreachable, expectations can be poison to relationships.

***

“The Boss Baby 2” begins a generation after the first has ended. Tim (James Marsden) is now a father himself, although still a kid at heart. His eldest daughter Tabitha is exceptionally-intelligent … but is maturing much too fast for Tim’s liking. He wants the dependency back, to be a “daddy” instead of a “father.” His youngest daughter Tina (Amy Sedaris) is spunky, energetic, and fuels Tim’s childishness. His brother Ted (Alec Baldwin), who used to be his best friend, has grown much too busy and important over the years. His colossal success has left his relationships distant and mostly unrequited … although the gifts he sends are always top-notch (e.g., an actual pony).

When a desperate call is made to Ted, he flies his private helicopter straight to Tim’s to confront this catastrophe … only to find it was a ruse … concocted by a 1-year-old. Turns out, Tina is no ordinary baby; she works for Baby Corp. and has been sent to recruit two of its most famous former-agents: Tim and Ted. Bros back on the job! Tim is all-in (’cause it’s fun!) but Ted takes some convincing. Their mission is important — their mission is time sensitive — their mission is personal!

One of my favorite things about this movie is its perfect casting. Voice acting seems like a lesser art … but it can elevate an animated movie or totally kill it. Unlike traditional acting, voice actors can’t rely on their expressive faces or their subtle gestures; they must simply speak and create life with nothing but words. You might not think about it much … until you see an animated movie where someone perfects the craft. Alec Baldwin is a wonderful voice actor; his voice of baby Ted is hilarious in its smoothness and control. James Marsden is spectacular as Tim, bringing his energetic charisma to the franchise. Amy Sedaris is great as Tina; I have always loved her unique approach and style … it makes for great comedy! Lastly, Jeff Goldblum is exceptional as Dr. Armstrong, the private school principal; as a voice actor, his odd yet methodical voice is unmatched.

Another standout to me is the screenplay by Michael McCullers. Sure sure sure, this movie isn’t out to Pixar some tears out of you — it is, instead, out to win you over with well-placed comedy. I think the screenplay was careful yet adventurous, quirky yet accessible. It definitely had me laughing throughout!

For kids and adults, “The Boss Baby: Family Business” will not disappoint! It can be seen in theaters now or on Peacock TV.

REPORT CARD: “The Boss Baby: Family Business.”

Grade: B+.

Comment: A sequel better than the first!

***

The world is all about basketball for LeBron James in Space Jam: A New Legacy. Family: as long as they hoopin’. Free time: it better be bouncin’. Fashion: does it improve my vertical? Memories: on or about the court. This single-minded focus has made him one of the greatest professional athletes of all time … but it doesn’t make him the greatest friend, or husband, or father.

His son Dom (Cedric Joe) is now expressing interest in technology and game design … but that isn’t basketball. LeBron is instantly out of his league. He meets his son’s budding curiosity with hostility and demands: “if it ain’t about basketball, it doesn’t matter!” Message received, Pops!

Everything changes when LeBron is presented with cutting-edge technology — one that will make him billions while costing him nothing. A new algorithm (personified as Al G. Rhythm played by Don Cheadle) can reproduce LeBron into anything: movies, games, you name it! Although lucrative, LeBron is uninterested because it isn’t about basketball, but Dom is fascinated! When LeBron rejects the proposal, the proposal rejects LeBron and seeks vengeance by kidnapping Dom. It will get its due recognition!

To release his son, LeBron must defeat the algorithm in a game of virtual basketball. I bet LeBron wishes he would have played more video games now!

For me, there is no one quite like Michael Jordan. It wasn’t only about the stats; it was a style thing, a passion thing, a grace thing, a mystifying and nearly mythological quality that has never been seen before. My appreciation for MJ made the original “Space Jam” an experience much greater than just a movie. It was a glimpse into greatness, a touch of the timeless. I am not proposing that his acting was Oscar-worthy … but I, for one, loved his attempt. I loved the Looney Tunes and their energy — I loved the effort into blending MJ’s fact into a fun fiction — I loved the supporting cast (Bill Murray and Wayne Knight were epically entertaining) — I loved the attention to soundtrack and the authenticity and atmosphere it produced. It still makes me feel like a kid again.

Now, 25 years later, here comes a reboot/sequel. I will not hate on LeBron, but the task is an impossible (moron) mountain to climb. You can recreate a product, but you cannot recreate a sentiment/feeling. The movie’s direction is uninspired, its soundtrack is flat, and its screenplay is unfunny. Don’t get me started on the surprise Michael Jordan cameo either …

LeBron gives it a valiant effort. Don Cheadle brings a much-needed edge and humor to the movie, often stealing the scene. The Looney Tunes do a good job, although it seems a bit of their personality has been lost. Art director Clint Wallace brings an interesting eye to this project, sometimes providing something entirely different.

Biases aside (as much as I can), Space Jam: A New Legacy is a flavorless attempt at a 90’s delicacy. It can be seen in theaters now or on HBO Max.

***

REPORT CARD: “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”

Grade: C-

Comment: Not entirely irredeemable … but not the genuine copy either

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

COMMENTS

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today