6. Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)
Worldwide Box Office: $154.9million
Starring: LeBron James, Cedric Joe, Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green
While criticisms of the long-awaited Space Jam sequel pointed to the Malcolm D. Lee film being little more than a corporate showcase of IP, this glorified animated advert (this time for HBO Max as opposed to Lego) at least had some semblance of stakes and relatability when compared to the infinitely more serious, less imaginative and less aspirational entries listed in this edition of Ranked so far.
A New Legacy functioned in many ways like the Disneyfication of The Muppets in the group’s self-titled 2011 film, with the beloved Looney Tunes – shunned by society in-universe and in real-life – returning to prominence. Here, as with The Muppets, they don’t sell out their values in order to make their returns, and when combined with the ever-cinematic sport of Basketball, they are central to Space Jam: A New Legacy’s relatively frequent offerings of laughs, wonderment and touching notes of nostalgia.
Kids will love the over-the-top visuals and vibrant colour palette, and the rampant actions of the Tunes characters is bound to draw a chuckle from even the most hardened viewer, so while there isn’t as much depth to the narrative or as many layers to the comedy as can be found in other Warner Animation Group offerings, Space Jam: A New Legacy is by no means a poor film. In fact, for what is essentially a star vehicle for a basketball player, A New Legacy is something of an original family blockbuster.
5. Storks (2016)
Worldwide Box Office: $183.4million
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Ty Burrell, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Danny Trejo, Awkwafina, Ike Barinholtz
Co-written and co-directed by Nicholas Stoller, the man who had helped to bring The Muppets back to the big screen under the Disney banner as a co-screenwriter, Storks was a film very much in the image of your typical Warner Animation Group releases: a below average screenplay littered with genuinely funny moments and terrific voice acting.
Adapting the old fable of Storks (a long-beaked type of bird) delivering babies to the houses of families, as brought to life in a much more sinister fashion by Hans Christian Anderson in his 19th century short story “The Storks”, WAG’s 2016 release felt uncoordinated, its screenplay seeming to stretch one very simple idea way too thin and its producers attempting to rectify that with minute after minute of quick-hitting, low value jokes that hit more than a handful of times but simply didn’t hit regularly enough to warrant such a barrage.
The animation itself was certainly high value, and a notable step away from the techniques put to screen in their previous release The Lego Movie, but while Storks was certainly worth looking at and was just about funny enough to warrant it not being a complete waste of time, Warner Animation Group were completely outshone in their take on the old fable by Disney Pixar’s short film Partly Cloudy released 7 years prior in 2009.
It’s not that Storks is necessarily bad, it’s just that Pixar did it better and they did it better in just 6 minutes, helping to relegate this film to middle of our list.
4. Smallfoot (2018)
Worldwide Box Office: $214million
Starring: Zendaya, Channing Tatum, LeBron James, James Corden, Gina Rodriguez, Common, Danny DeVito, Yara Shahidi, Jimmy Tatro
A movie with an animation style more akin to Storks than The Lego Movie, Smallfoot was something of a mixed bag so far as the Warner Animation Group filmography goes.
The animation was at times spectacular and at other times completely bland, while the film’s core idea was far from unique or other-worldly enough to prop up an animated film but the content was largely wholesome and the characters endearing enough to maintain interest.
At a worldwide box office return of $214million, Smallfoot became WAG’s 3rd highest grossing film, yet it never became as much of a talking point with audiences as the studio’s biggest releases, its star-studded cast including Zendaya, Channing Tatum and LeBron James seeming to tempt people into theatres without necessarily touching base with the core cinema-going community.
Featuring a strong message at the centre of a heart-warming narrative, Smallfoot is very much a watchable Warner Animation Group entry, an enjoyable family film to spend a few hours with, but not quite the memorable animated film release that some of our remaining selections are.
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