Everybody get up, it’s time to slam now — but do we have a real jam going down? Welcome BACK to the Space Jam.
The beloved sports adventure of Michael Jordan teaming up with the Looney Tunes in an epic high stakes basketball game gets a long awaited sequel starring basketball superstar, LeBron James in Space Jam: A New Legacy.
This time around, LeBron and his son are trapped in a digital world run by rogue digital entity, Al (Don Cheadle). In order to escape, LeBron must team up with the Looney Tunes for an intense basketball game against the Al’s team: the goon squad.
Let’s get one thing straight before we dive in into this movie — I loved the original Space Jam as a kid. I definitely had a bunch of the toys, the VHS, and the CD. But I know it’s not a “great movie”. Actually rewatching it recently made me realize how utterly cheesy and poorly acted it is. But I still have a strong attachment for it.
However, as an an adult and amateur film critic (I guess I can call myself that, right?) I have to acknowledge that although this sequel is designed to appeal to the kids of 2021 and introduce them to the Looney Tunes, this film is far from being a “new legend”.
As my review title says, this is no slam dunk. Although there are some moments and meta references that made me chuckle, the film is a wacky, chaotic, headache-inducing adventure that has no reason being almost 2 hours.
I respect that the film does not recreate the original Space Jam formula frame for frame, but I do wish that it had some of that wholesome nostalgia.
LeBron tries to make the story work…but you know, it just doesn’t. And although I adore Zendaya, I personally didn’t think she necessarily needed to voice Lola or that she added any additional zest to the toon.
But you know who is having a ball? DON CHEADLE. He is THRIVING.
Space Jam: A New Legend also tries desperately to appeal to adults by weaving in a ton of Warner Brothers intellectual property references.
From the big kahunas like Harry Potter, Wizard of Oz, and Game of Thrones to the more obscure (and uh…not kid-friendly) references like the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange or Bette Davis’s character from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane — the gang is ALL there.
It is like Warner Brothers IP vomit…or a wacky version of Ready Player One on steroids. And although some of it is enjoyable (because your girl did enjoy some of it. I may have SCREAMED during the Mad Max: Fury Road sequence), it’s a LOT and you have to be a true cinephile to appreciate most of it. I often felt like I was playing a WB version Where’s Waldo instead of paying attention to the story.
And even though some movies can be overwhelming but still be enjoyable, sadly this isn’t one of those occasions. Instead of upgrading the story to fit the digital landscape, I kind of wish we went back to basics on this one.
And if there’s anything I wish for more than that, it’s that kids fall in love with the Tune World — and that after seeing this, their parents can show them the original Space Jam.
Final Thoughts: Instead of going back to the roots of what made Space Jam beloved, Space Jam: A New Legend is a wacky, IP-bloated chaos.