Hello again! I will be doing a series of reviews based on legacy sequels this week and next week to stir my anticipation for Top Gun: Maverick to be released on streaming on August 23. After hearing the movie is going to be released next Tuesday, I decided to look at selective legacy sequels, good and bad, to rein in my expectations. The first movie on the docket is a sequel to a 26-year-old movie many of us grew up on. This is Space Jam: A New Legacy.
Almost beat by beat to the original 1996 Michael Jordan-led movie, the movie follows basketball superstar Lebron James trying to sternly encourage his son Dominic (Cedric Joe) to go to basketball camp to be just like him and his brother Darius (Ceyair J. Wright), much to his wife Kamiaya’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) dismay. This puts him at odds with his son, whose real passion is to develop and code video games. After getting a call from Warner Bros., LeBron takes Dominic with him and his childhood friend Malik (Khris Davis) to a pitch meeting on the awful idea of inserting him into every Warner Bros. IP. LeBron flat out refuses whereas Dom shows his true resentment toward his dad for coercing him into basketball life.
Unknowingly, in the Warner Bros. Serververse, the artificial intelligence as Al G Rhythm (Don Cheadle) catches wind of this and leads both LeBron and Dom to the basement server room and captures them both. Al G challenges LeBron in a basketball game to battle over who gets custody of Dominic. He sends LeBron down to Tune World where he encounters Bugs Bunny (Eric Bauza) as the lone inhabitant, and they team up to get the Tune Squad back together to play basketball again to which Bugs reflexively says, “Sounds familiar”.
To paraphrase Charlton Heston’s George Taylor from Planet of the Apes, this movie is a madhouse. Me and my sister Monique were laughing at just how funny, awful, weird, and cringey the movie was. There are two specific spoilers for this movie. One is the elephant in the room is knowing this is a Warner Bros. property, they crammed every IP they have into this movie. There is no story to be seen here. It is a blatant rehash of the original film and is used as background to showcase and market for people to subscribe to HBO Max. It is almost the equivalent of how the DCEU shot itself in the foot with Zack Snyder’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, with its desperate attempt to shoehorn members of the Justice League into their universe to catch up with Disney and the MCU.
The hand-drawn animation scenes were alright, it was true to the Looney Tunes cartoon aesthetic. There were times when LeBron and Bugs go to other places in the Serververse, like going to the world of Mad Max: Fury Road to recruit Road Runner and Wile E Coyote and the universe of The Matrix to find Granny and Tweety, that feel oddly out of place. Even the basketball game was out of control. The game in the first movie felt like it had some form of control and some easy-to-follow form of traditional basketball rules. This does not have any form of control at all. It almost feels like they were making this up as they go along. For instance, Don Cheadle’s team consisted of avatars of actual NBA and WNBA stars Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Nneka Ogwumike, and Diana Taurasi cheating the entire game until the Tune Squad begin earning style points which includes obligatory freestyle rapping that came out of nowhere.
LeBron James is one of the great basketball players of my generation, but he is not the best actor in this movie. His character is a one-dimensional archetype who lazily breezes through the typical stern-masculine father before realizing he is aliening his son and realizing he needs to let Dominic do whatever he wants with his life that does not involve basketball. Cheadle, as Al G Rhythm, was admittedly the only person who is having way more fun in the movie. He’s exactly what the audience would expect in a Space Jam movie: zany, fun, and cartoonish in a way that is reminiscent of Jim Carry’s the Riddler from Batman Forever. Some of his jokes were funny, but some were, indeed, forced because they have to reference a Warner Bros property.
As far as the characters of the Looney Tunes, they were fine. Their transition from their hand-drawn existence to CGI is almost nightmarish, to be honest. Most of their jokes seemed very forced in certain scenes. But a highlight is Zendaya’s Lola Bunny, who was good since they got rid of the sexualized Lola from the first movie. Bugs Bunny was fine as well, until the screenwriters made the dumbest decision I have ever seen. Spoiler number two: Bugs Bunny “dies” because he did a basketball maneuver that causes a glitch in the system and permanently deletes himself. Yet somehow, he’s alive in our world walking alongside King James. It is another desperate ham-fisted attempt by screenwriters to exude cheap sympathy and shock value from the audience to get people invested in the franchise a whole lot more.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is a hilariously bad legacy sequel to the original 1996 Space Jam, in which it does not advance the story, repeats the predecessor’s formula, and cheapens it. Don Cheadle’s role as Al G Rhythm (it’s a pun on the word “algorithm”) was the only memorable personality in this movie. If people are interested in trying to have a family movie night and are still interested in seeing this movie, I suggest renting it, and if they have HBO Max, they can still watch it. But it’s not worth owning it on Blu-Ray and DVD. Otherwise, people should watch Ready Player One or Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph movies. It is like the monkey’s paw: Be careful what you ask for.
*Julian Jones is a University of Alabama at Birmingham graduate with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Public Health. When he is not watching films, he is an Assistant to Ashley M Jones, Poet Laureate of the State of Alabama. Let him know what you thought of his review by leaving a comment below!
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