It was only 25 years ago when a major movie studio decided to take the world’s greatest athlete and put him in the world of Looney Tunes. Back in 1996, Space Jam was a phenomenon that sprung action figures, merchandise, comics, and video games.
Kids, including an 11-year-old LeBron James, were all over how cool it was seeing Michael Jordan and the cast of Looney Tunes save the world. Sure, looking back, the story really had no plot and the characters were a bit annoying, but back then, we didn’t notice any of this. Instead, we laughed at the hilarious antics that Bugs, Daffy, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Taz, and many others brought to the film — alongside basketball legends — Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Shawn Bradley, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues.
The same could be said about Space Jam: A New Legacy. Starring basketball icon LeBron James as a fictional version of himself, the Looney Tunes gang teams up with James against Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle), a Warner Bros. algorithm who has become self-aware and gone rogue in the Warner Bros. franchise universe. After James turns down Al-G Rhythm’s idea to expand the WB universe, which would give Al-G the recognition he desperately yearns for, Al-G kidnaps Jame’s game-developer son Dom (Cedric Joe) and challenges James to a battle of basketball.
James is sent to Looney Tunes world to find a team to battle against Rhythm’s team. Unfortunately, Bugs Bunny uses this opportunity to unite with his colleagues, who have wandered off to different WB properties. As a fan of pop culture and being knowledgeable of classic Warner franchises, these scenes with the Looney Tunes integrated in the other properties was the best part of the film.
It made sense to see Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote chasing each other in the dystopian world of Mad Max and hilarious for Elmer Fudd as Dr. Evil’s Mini-Me in the world of Austin Powers. Although technology has improved greatly from the first and the CGI in the film is fantastic, it felt a bit overwhelming as the movie tried to show-off all the different characters within the WB universe. I get it, WB. You own a lot of properties. I’m happy for you. I just don’t need it in my face.
Unlike the first Space Jam, A New Legacy actually has a plot. It’s a simple story and that’s necessary for a kid’s movie. Although his portrayal as himself in the 2015 film Trainwreck was pretty great, James is not known for his acting ability, especially in this film, and the film points it out with James making that very statement. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just alright.
Fortunately, most of the time spent is with the Looney Tune characters (with James as a cartoon version as well) and Cheadle, who we know to be a Grade-A actor, who hams it up really well for the camera since his main co-star is also a digital cartoon. The movie is also set to fit today’s kids with the video game obsession and our addiction to our devices. It’s quite obvious who the film was targeting and it probably is going to be a hit for children of this generation.
It’s extremely difficult to not compare the two Space Jam films, but it’s quite hard not to because both films were meant for kids and the adults who grew up with the original Space Jam will probably expect some kind of nostalgia.
Unfortunately, unless you kept that childish mindset from 1996, you will feel a bit of it. There are several funny moments that both kids and adults can laugh at, including a surprise visit from a celebrity and an unexpected rap battle. The film is not perfect, and it was a little chaotic and cringey at times, but it’s entertaining for the most part. It also has some heart to it, especially for those who love father-son moments.
As I watched the film with a toddler in tow, the moments I found a bit irritating, he ended up giggling the entire time. He beamed whenever the Looney Tunes were present on-screen and recoiled next to me when Cheadle’s Al-G Rhythm was being mean. This really served as a reminder for who this is really for — the children.