Twenty-five years after the original took NBA superstar Michael Jordan to the Tune world for an epic game of b-ball, Warner Brothers is back to remix the plot beats for a new generation. "Space Jam: A New Legacy" sends modern NBA superstar LeBron James on a quest for the ultimate team-up. After entering a digitized world in a server farm on the Warner Bros. backlot, James encounters Bugs Bunny and must reunite the Tune Squad for a new basketball showdown. This time the stakes are personal, as winning the game means James' and his son's freedom back to the land of humans.
There's slightly more plot than that involving a rogue A.I. (Don Cheadle) who's behind all of this. But if after reading the above, you are still on the fence -- and even more so if you are taking your kids -- then, read on.
- LeBron James and director Malcolm D. Lee step up the stakes from the original, making this story feel a bit more personal.
- The father-son dynamic is better set up here than in the original. A good message thus gets rebounded, especially for any dads taking their young ones to the film.
- The b-ball action is far more thrilling and intense than the original. My seven-year-old was cheering like he was watching a real game!
- We need to see more of Don Cheadle as a villain. Out of everyone in the cast, he seemed to be the only actor who was genuinely enjoying his role in this.
- We'll just get it out of the way -- a Michael Jordan shows up, but not the Michael Jordan. It's a fun fakeout that may or may not be cleverly spoofing how belated sequels like this rely on a "cameo ex machina" to come and save the day.
- The original "Space Jam" waists no time getting right to the point -- let's play some basketball! "A New Legacy," on the other hand, gives us way too much set-up and not enough follow-through.
- "A New Legacy" ups stakes, but it's all glossed over to serve the film's real purpose -- look at all these worlds based on WB movies!
- After sitting through "Ready Player One," the DC Extended Universe, and the Lego movies, why do we need yet another corporate-approved romp through all of WB's I.P.?
- This is a kids' movie. What are the Droogs from "A Clockwork Orange" doing here? Or the gang from "Mad Max: Fury Road?" Or the White Walkers from "Game of Thrones?" Who exactly are they all cheering for?
"Space Jam: A New Legacy" certainly has some pros (yes, pun intended), but not nearly as much heart as the original. And that says a lot about the original, which was born out of a series of Nike commercials. The original "Space Jam" knew exactly what it was and wore it on its sleeve. Original producer Ivan Reitman, and the rest of the original crew, knew Jordan and his b-ball cohorts just as well as they knew the Looney Tunes gang. The film didn't pander; it played it straight. This is why it worked so well, and even still holds up 25 years later.
This new "Space Jam" doesn't quite get it. It wants to give something to the adults that grew up with the original but fails so utterly spectacularly that it becomes almost unwatchable. It's self-aware like all movies are wont to be today, but it completely overlooks the original. An even bigger crime is that "Space Jam: A New Legacy" does almost nothing with the Looney Tunes gang. The focus should be on setting up these characters for a new generation, but the film has no idea who they are or what to do with them. Like James in the film's setup, "A New Legacy" is stuck with these classic characters and forced to play with them.
Bottom line: is "Space Jam: A New Legacy" a good movie? No. Is it worth a watch? Well...no. But, for all its unwatchability, there's something that still feels so right with its place in the theater. If Marvel movies are theme parks, then "Space Jam: A New Legacy" is Sesame Place or Legoland. It's aimed at kids, and they are probably the only ones who will find the sheer enjoyment of it all, especially from seeing it on the big screen.
July 16, 2021
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.