Let’s get this out of the way early: I am one of the millennials that grew up with—and has a nostalgic connection to—Space Jam (1996). I recognize that it has a lot of flaws, but it’s a fun, meta, overlong Looney Tunes episode with an incredible soundtrack. As a staunch defender of sequels, I have been eagerly awaiting Space Jam: A New Legacy for some time.
Space Jam 2 accomplishes something the first film never managed to do: it made me very angry. Not in the “it ruined my childhood” way often expressed by trolls online, but in the “they had to actively put in effort to make a movie this bad” way. Now, my therapist would say, “a movie can’t make you angry, only you can let yourself be made angry,” but let’s leave her out of this.
A New Legacy centers on LeBron James and his relationship with his fictitious son. LeBron wants him to play basketball. His son wants to develop and distribute a basketball video game. Clearly, you now understand the high-level emotional stakes at play here. Meanwhile, a Warner Bros. Studios algorithm, named Al. G Rhythm (Don Cheadle), determines the most famous person in the world is LeBron James (Beyoncé does not exist in this universe), and decides to make new versions of WB’s existing Intellectual Property (IP) with LeBron. When LeBron turns this pitch down, Al G. Rhythm (really, that’s his name) kidnaps them and forces them to play basketball. Also, the Looney Tunes are peripherally involved.
Since there are pretty much only negative things to say about this movie, I thought it was only fair to frontload the three positives I had to work hard to come up with. One, there is a single funny joke in this movie about the “securial arts.” Two, the color palette captures both the essence of each location and the overall vibe of the film. Three, Don Cheadle is in this movie.
Like the greatest of Greek myths, Space Jam’s downfall is hubris. The film is so confident in its creative choices that it doubles down on every single one and beats you over the head with it. Think it’s funny that the evil algorithm’s name is Al G. Rhythm? Find it cheeky that LeBron likes Harry Potter? Enjoy scattershot references to other WB media? Great, because each of these jokes happen repeatedly throughout.
There is a chance that there was just very little oversight on the script itself. Maybe they just didn’t realize that they had repeated each joke ten times? They clearly did not realize that most of the pop culture references have been out of trend for many years. There is an MC Hammer joke. There is a “You mad, bro?” joke. There is a mic drop joke. Every joke that you and your friend group have killed by telling it to death is accounted for.
Unfortunately, the most visible flaw is LeBron himself. Look, LeBron is charismatic, and he was a hoot in Trainwreck (2015). He is absolutely not having a good time here. Not one of his lines is delivered convincingly, and Malcom D. Lee seemingly was uninterested in giving him notes. In one scene, a villain bounces the basketball off his head repeatedly, and instead of acting like a ball is hitting him realistically or even cartoonishly, he casually moves his head right and left as if he’s bored. It’s a really painful lead performance to watch.
- It’s hard to place a finger on it, but the Looney Tunes are all just a bit off in this movie
- I love Zendaya, but I cannot think of a reason—other than for marketing, of course—that she needed to be Lola Bunny
- Even the presence of Michael B. Jordan, a man whose mere existence sends me to ecstasy, is eyeroll-inducing
- For a movie so hellbent on shoving WB’s characters and licenses down your throat, it’s amazing that they let all of the WB character extras act as if performing at a low-rent theme park
The Final Tea
This movie exists for exactly one reason: to make sure audiences know that Warner Bros. owns all of the IP that Disney doesn’t. Normally, I have the education and training to make a case as to why sequels are not just soulless, corporate cash grabs. Space Jam 2 may have defeated me.
I dug the repeating gags – that’s what Looney Tunes are all about after all. And it was quite cool to see all the WB properties lined up as planets. But to each their own. 🙂