“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is directed by Malcom D. Lee (Girls Trip, Night School) and stars LeBron James (The Wall, Smallfoot), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2, Crash), Khris Davis (The Blacklist, Judas and the Black Messiah), Sonequa Martin-Green (Star Trek: Discovery, The Walking Dead), Jeff Bergman (The Looney Tunes Show, Teen Titans Go!), Eric Bauza (DuckTales, Ben 10: Omniverse), and Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Greatest Showman). This film is the sequel to the 1996… Cult classic? I don’t know what else to call it. I really didn’t like the film. Just gonna say it. Either this film is the sequel to the 1996 film “Space Jam,” a movie where Michael Jordan joins forces with the Looney Tunes to fulfill both their destinies through a game of basketball. In this 2021 sequel, LeBron James’s son is trapped in the Warner 3000 server and to save his son, James must compete in a basketball game with the Looney Tunes against Al-G Rhythm and the Goon Squad. If LeBron and his team win, he gets his son back. If Al-G and his team win, LeBron will lose his son and the Looney Tunes will be erased.
I did not grow up in the 1990s. In fact I was born a few years after “Space Jam” came out. So it was never a part of my childhood in a way that it may have been for some people. I would hear the name come up every now and then and part of me wanted to know what I was missing. The whole idea behind it sounded like something from another universe. I for one do not usually put two and two together, but as peculiar as it sounded, it also came off as intriguing. I for one wanted to keep my eyes peeled as to how such a crazy idea that sounds like it could have been designed by an eight year old would rise to fruition. Well… it definitely sounded like something an eight year old would come up with, that’s for sure. Between Michael Jordan’s below par acting, the usually unfunny and campy writing, and occasionally lackluster camerawork, the film just didn’t click with me. And much like “Uncle Drew” in 2018, which I ended up claiming that it “didn’t do much of anything except chop my head off,” “Space Jam” is not even an original idea! They took the idea from an ad campaign!
As much as I would love to one day see the GEICO cinematic universe, where 90 minutes at the AMC won’t exactly save you 15% or more on concessions, “Space Jam” to me, was not quite a commercial failure, but it had a ton of flaws. Although I will say that it truly is a product of its time and embraces the 1990s cheese.
Now we have this part live-action, part animation, part heavy modern CGI animation “Space Jam” sequel. Is it better than the original?
Kinda? I don’t know. Let’s just put it this way, the original “Space Jam” was a product of its time and does not really hold up as much today as it did when it came out. I feel like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is going to suffer the same fate overtime. Between the pricy yet somewhat unrealistic visuals, the cinematic universe element, and a heavy reliance on computers and sci-fi, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is probably the most 2021 movie to ever 2021.
Going back to the recently mentioned “Uncle Drew,” one of the things I hated about that movie is how much they seemed to shoehorn Pepsi product placement into every other scene. The plot of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is a bit more in your face with product placement because it relies on LeBron James teaming up with the Looney Tunes to find a bunch of a different characters from the Warner Brothers library. The whole movie is basically a promotion for Warner Brothers. This begs the question… Is “Space Jam: A New Legacy” even a movie in the first place? In fact, one of the big things people have been talking about at the end of the movie is that a majority of the audience in the big game happen to be Warner Bros. characters or characters from a variety of properties. People even brought up characters from “A Clockwork Orange” and asked why they’re in a family-friendly movie. I don’t really have that complaint because “The LEGO Batman Movie” had characters from “The Matrix” which is also rated R. So that’s just me. Either way, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” feels like it is trying harder to get people to attach themselves to other Warner Brothers properties more than they are to Looney Tunes or LeBron James. I understand that the Looney Tunes has had a history of pop culture references. Heck, one of the moments I recall often from the original “Space Jam” is a reference to “Pulp Fiction.” But this movie barely feels like it has a clear identity at times and uses alternate properties in your face to move the story along.
Let’s talk about LeBron James. I know he’s had a few acting credits. Frankly I have not seen any of them. I still have not seen “Trainwreck,” “Smallfoot,” or any other movie or show he’s been in. I’ve seen some of the TV shows he produces including “The Wall,” but I cannot recall ever seeing him act. And I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that “Space Jam: A New Legacy” showcases more of a semblance of acting talent from LeBron James than the original “Space Jam” did from Michael Jordan. The difference at times feels night and day. The bad news is that the good news does not really say much because LeBron is not that great of an actor. In fact, at times he’s very flat, especially at the beginning of the movie. I’ll defend James in one area. I think he could have a reputable career in voiceovers if he chooses to go down that path. But he is nevertheless not the greatest actor. Nor is he the greatest character in this movie. In fact at times, LeBron James is kind of an asshole. Now, I know that movies are supposed to get you to like assholes as they progressively change into better people. But the way that LeBron treats his son in the movie kind of left a bad taste in my mouth as far as my first impression goes and sort of made James himself lack dimension.
Also, I know that this is a kids movie, and I’m trying my best to judge with the notion in mind that someone younger could end up watching this film and calling it the best thing ever. I think that scenario is entirely plausible. If you have kids, I think they will end up really liking the film. It’s got the Looney Tunes in it, it’s got a bunch of other Warner Brothers properties in it. But at the end of the day, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” feels like it could end up brainwashing kids to buy more Warner Brothers stuff just because they saw it in this movie. If anything, this reminded me of “The Emoji Movie” where the characters jump from one world to another and every other plot thread is utilized through existing properties or companies from Candy Crush Saga to YouTube! Thankfully, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is nowhere near as annoying. But if I left the movie saying to myself… Hmm, I wanna go watch “Wonder Woman.” I think it is ultimately a slight detractor on “Space Jam: A New Legacy” because well, unlike “Wonder Woman,” I do not want to go back and watch “Space Jam: A New Legacy” again.
I also want to address the Lola Bunny controversy… I’m not talking about the way she looks. I don’t care if they desexualized her. Although weirdly enough, the Granny character feels borderline sexualized at times. Take that as you want. What I do want to talk about is Zendaya playing the character. I get it, Zendaya is becoming an increasingly iconic actor. In fact, she recently won a Primetime Emmy. So that proves that she has talent. As far as her being in this movie, her voice kinda fits the character, but I want to talk about a trend that is somewhat becoming a growing concern. Taking film actors who are not primarily voiceover artists, and giving them voiceover roles just for the sake of having big names. That would be fine if they could find anyone else, but between Zendaya not feeling like she has the spark I would have expected from a character like this (although I liked her in the beginning) and the fact that this takes a role away from a voiceover professional, it is kind of a turnoff. I’m not against big actors getting voiceover roles. I’ve seen a lot of big actors have voiceover talent and it pays off. But the more I see roles like this given to actors of Zendaya’s caliber with diminishing room for actual VO artists, the more it worries me.
I will also say that Don Cheadle is surprisingly okay in the film. He’s not great. I think part of it is due to the somewhat on the nose writing, but I think Cheadle did an okay job playing a cartoony villain that really is not a cartoon. I didn’t like the voice deepening they gave him, I think that at times was a bit of a turnoff, but he was decently cast and Cheadle brought some swagger to the role.
In the end, as far as Warner Brothers commercials go, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is inferior to any of the “LEGO” films and “Ready Player One.” At least in “Ready Player One,” they utilize all the Warner characters in a way that has them fascinatingly contributing to the story and they have some outside characters from other properties coming together to affect the way things go. In the end, that film felt like a pop culture celebration while also being a ridiculously fun movie, hence why it became one of my favorites of 2018. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” comes off as a bunch of studio executives trying to sound cool and connected with audiences but failing in the process. LeBron James as a character gets better in the movie despite leaving me with a poor taste at first. Although I found it somewhat funny how there’s a scene where he claims he does not have time to work with Warner Brothers because he’s hyper-focused on basketball, but at the same time, he’s had a history of production on the side. “The Wall” would not have had four seasons on NBC if were not for you! You literally were involved in the production and marketing of “Million Dollar Mile!” Heck, you had time to do this movie! Either way, I’m going to give “Space Jam: A New Legacy” a 4/10.
Will kids like this movie? Yes, they would. But as an adult, I can never watch this movie again, and part of me fears that this movie could have the same effect on children that maybe “The Emoji Movie” may or may not have been shooting for.
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is now playing in theaters everywhere and now you can stream it exclusively on the ad-free version of HBO Max until 31 days after its theatrical release.
Thanks for reading this review! Stay tuned for Thursday, July 22nd because I will be spilling my thoughts on Jack Sparrow’s most expensive adventure yet, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” in my ongoing “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” review series! Stay tuned for that and more on Scene Before, and you can do so by following the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, be sure to like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie is better? “Space Jam” or “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” Frankly, I’m torn. But leave your thoughts down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!