To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Space Jam: A New Legacy live-action/animated sports comedy film serving as a standalone sequel to 1996’s Space Jam starring NBA legend Michael Jordan. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, the film stars LeBron James as a fictionalized version of himself, along with Don Cheadle, Khris Davis, Sonequa Martin-Green, Cedric Joe, Ernie Johnson Jr., and Lil Rel Howery in live-action roles, while Jeff Bergman, Eric Bauza, and Zendaya lend their voices to the Looney Tunes. The story follows LeBron James teaming up with the Looney Tunes in the Warner Bros. “Serververse” to win a basketball match against The Goon Squad, a team digitally altered professional basketball players, and rescue his son from the rogue AI, Al-G Rhythm.
Talks for a Space Jam sequel began shortly after the release of the first film, but eventually fell through due to Michael Jordan’s refusal to return. Several possible ideas focusing on other athletes were pitched, including Spy Jam starring Jackie Chan and Race Jam starring Jeff Gordon, with Skate Jam starring Tony Hawk, being the closest to becoming a reality. All films I believe should have been greenlit before Looney Tunes: Back in Action. After several years, a LeBron James-led sequel was officially announced in 2014 due to the athlete’s increasing popularity and comparison to Jordan. I feel like this was a smart move in terms of choosing a popular basketball player so that the film could have a similar story to the original film while being its own thing. The issue is that the studio decided to move forward too late. Michael Jordan had won NBA championships the year Space Jam came out as well as two consecutive years after. LeBron did win a championship in 2020 but it was during the NBA Bubble which was very restricted due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. A prime time for this film to have been made and released would have been right after LeBron won the NBA Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, breaking the Cleveland sports curse.
In terms of a story, Space Jam: A New Legacy is basically Tron: Legacy meets Ready Player One, and just like the previous film the rules of entering the animated world are ill-defined and glossed over.LeBron and his son get sucked into a Warner Bros. supercomputer controlled by a villainous artificial intelligence and there are tons of WB easter eggs since the “Serververse” is made up of all the company’s intellectual property. The sad thing is, barely any of these non-Looney Tunes characters get to speak. LeBron and the Tunes are basically edited into already existing film footage. In all the worlds we get to visit the only one with any true depth is Themyscira. We see Lola Bunny has actually started a new life here with the Amazons. There is also a quick scene with Rick and Morty that works very well with the reintroduction of one of the Tunes. This film could have done more by having some of these other characters have more speaking roles and extending the journey to regather the Tune Squad.
This is some of the worst acting I have seen from LeBron. For someone who has acted well in the past and is such a charismatic guy in reality it’s sad to see this lackluster effort from him. I would say that it’s because he is acting with cartoons, but his live-action scenes are laughable too. In the original film, it basically felt as if Jordan was being himself therefore it felt believable, but this serious version of LeBron was not believable. We have seen him be a goofball with his teammates and hanging around celebrities. It would have worked better if this was the LeBron we saw in the film. The basketball game against the Goon Squad is essentially NBA Jam, a video game I’m sure LeBron would have played at least once. Don Cheadle was pretty good as Al-G Rhythm and seemed like he was having fun the entire time. A lot of the film’s laughs come from his performance. He understands the assignment and realizes it’s a movie for kids and that his character should be as eccentric as possible.
While most of the jokes in the film do not land there are a few that are quite funny. As previously mentioned the scene with Rick and Morty is a standout along with the “Michael Jordan” cameo. There are also quick references to other pop culture such as Chappelle’s Show and Game of Thrones that add a little more humor for adults. The animation is well done and transfers from 2D to 3D in a way that makes sense. It also helps blend the live-action Lebron into the cartoon environment a little better.
While the film could have been a lot worse, it definitely feels as if it’s meant for a younger audience and succeeds in that endeavor. I give a Space Jam: A New Legacy Solid 6/10. In the original film, the Looney Tunes had to play against aliens hence the name “Space Jam.” Seeing as they were basically in a computer the entire time, Cyberspace Jam would have been a more appropriate title.
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