REVIEW: ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ A Flawed But Superior Sequel, Thanks To Combo Of Looney Tunes, LeBron James
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been 25 years since world-famous NBA player Michael Jordan teamed up with Bugs Bunny and other legendary Looney Tunes characters in “Space Jam,” a hybrid live-action/animation basketball comedy. That movie did surprisingly well at the box office back in 1996 and became an instant classic VHS re-watch for lots of kids in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Almost from its original release the movie was rumored to have a sequel in the works over the years, but it wasn’t until 2014 that Warner Brothers finally confirmed one was on the way, this time with world-famous NBA player LeBron James in the lead and all of the studio’s intellectual properties ready to back him up.
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” begins with teenage basketball prodigy LeBron in 1998, where he gets some advice from a coach about the effort and focus he’ll need to maximize his talent.
After a series of career highlights flash across the screen, we jump ahead to the present day where this fictionalized version of LeBron is trying to pass that same advice about basketball on to his two sons.
However, his younger son, Dom (played by Cedric Joe), isn’t really interested in playing basketball at all because his passion is in programming and coding.
Dom is hoping to skip the basketball camp his dad wants him to attend so that instead he can take the basketball computer game he created to a video game expo.
After a business meeting at Warner Brothers studios, LeBron & Dom are mysteriously absorbed into Warner 3000, the computer servers where all the WB properties exist in computer or animated form, and where all of it is ruled by an artificial intelligence program named Al G. Rhythm (played by Don Cheadle).
In order to rescue his son and get home safely, LeBron learns he must lead Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes characters to victory on the basketball court over Al G. Rhythm’s champion Goon Squad: a powered-up roster of digitized professional basketball stars.
The writers on “Space Jam: A New Legacy” crafted a story that was actually much more meaningful than the original movie, with great messages about family, parent-child relationships, the power of being yourself and utilizing your own unique talents.
I was also pleased with how funny the movie was at times both for kids and adults — which it better be, since it’s full of some of the funniest cartoon characters in cinema history.
Much of the humor aimed at adults comes in the pop culture references and moments when Space Jam crosses over with the many other WB properties, like Harry Potter, the DC Comics universe of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, the Wizard of Oz or the Matrix.
As a fan of cinematic animation, I enjoyed seeing both the 2D and 3D renderings of all the characters (including LeBron himself at one point) as well as a much-improved and nearly seamless integration between live-action and animated characters.
Several NBA & WNBA players make appearances, both in live-action as well as CG form.
But, at the same time, some of those strengths were also the film’s weaknesses.
The near-constant parade of Warner Bros. intellectual properties through the movie started to become a distraction. At several points during the film, I realized I was ignoring what was happening in the big game because my attention had wandered to the crowd in the background while I tried to recognize who was watching the game.
I saw The Iron Giant, King Kong, the Scooby-Doo gang, the Jetsons, the Flintstones, characters from the Wizard of Oz, The Matrix, the Batman movies, the Superman movies, the Mask, the Harry Potter movies and even the clown Pennywise from the movie “IT” — at some point it just got to be ridiculous.
There are so many easter eggs in this movie that you could make the world’s biggest omelet and still have another world’s biggest omelet left over.
Similarly, the “Server-verse,” as imaginative and colorful as it is to look at, eventually builds to a near visual overload, especially during the film’s climactic final basketball game.
Content-wise, the film is relatively harmless. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is rated PG for some cartoon violence and some language. The movie’s run time is just under two hours.
When all is said and done, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is better and more enjoyable than the original “Space Jam.” The humor, clever story and good message were enough to overcome the near-constant WB product placement and create a movie that every member of the family can potentially find something in it to like.
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is playing in theaters and looks fantastic on the big screen.
But it is also available to stream for free at home for subscribers to HBO Max. HBO cable subscribers already have access to HBO Max, though this movie can only be watched by logging in to the app.
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” will only be available to stream until Aug. 15.
FINAL RATING: TWO & A HALF OUT OF FOUR STARS
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth is the movie and pop culture guy for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out some of his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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