One of the cult classic films that everyone around my age seems to love is 1996’s Space Jam, featuring Michael Jordan and the Loony Tunes. The original Space Jam is one of those films that I believe many see as great due to nostalgia, because looking back, it really wasn’t all that good. Despite this, I too fall in the nostalgia trap and enjoy myself whenever I go back and watch the film. So, when Warner Bros. announced a sequel/soft-reboot to the original, but this time starring Lebron James, I was actually excited. I became even more intrigued when the trailers started showing us some of the film and the pop-culture mashup (in the same vein as Ready Player One (2018)) that we were to expect in the film: with it featuring Hanna-Barbera characters, DC heroes, the Iron Giant, and Game of Thrones. Despite the further intrigue, the Warner Bros. property mashup also gave me worries: will this just be visual noise that distracts from the rest of the film? Yes it was, but thank the movie gods it was, because the film is awful and I was very welcoming of the distraction from the rest of the trainwreck.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is about Lebron James struggling to connect with his son, Dom (played by Cedric Joe), as Dom’s love is video games, and Lebron is a domineering father that is anti-anything that isn’t basketball. During a meeting with Warner Bros, Lebron enrages a rogue algorithm, named Al G. Rhythm (played by Don Cheadle) who proceeds to kidnap Lebron and his son into the Warner Bros’ computer server-verse. In order to save his son, Lebron must recruit Bugs Bunny (voiced by Jeff Bergman) and the rest of the Loony Tunes crew to play a basketball game against Al G Rhythm and save his son.
This film is horrendous. I can count the number of films on my hand that made me want to walk out within the first five minutes, and Space Jam: A New Legacy has now been added to that list. If anybody ever comes up with the idea to cast Lebron James in an acting role ever again, black list them from the industry. Athletes turned actors rarely ever works out—this film even makes a joke about it—and this may one of the single worst cases of it; whenever a semi-decent scene was happening, James would open his mouth and I would immediately groan and cover my face. It is understandable, and expected, that James would not have acting chops, but what adds to the atrocity is that the well-established actors in this film also had horrible performances. It felt like every single actor in this film, barring the child actors, just showed up for a paycheck and phoned it in. I was not expecting Oscar-caliber acting from a Space Jam film, but I can wholeheartedly say that I’ve seen better acting in middle school productions of Disney Jr. plays.
Bad acting is a nail in the coffin, but it wasn’t what damned this movie: the writing was unforgivable all the way around. The plot was very poorly conceived and paced, the character arcs were shallow and lacked any substance, 80% of the dialogue was cringe inducing, and almost all of the jokes fell flat. In a Loony Tunes film, I want to laugh, and I think I laughed maybe five times. Throughout the film, it felt like the writers decided that Bugs and co. weren’t “cool” enough for younger audiences and they tried way too hard to zhuzh them up for younger audiences. Due to this “update”, the Tunes felt out of place and secondary in their own movie. The best parts of this film were when the characters were scattered across the “server-verse” and were themselves. The moment all the characters were together, all life in them went out the window and they became nothing more than poorly executed punchlines. Also, the CGI designs for the Tunes need to never see the light of day ever again—they are very disconcerting .
The acting, writing, CGI redesigns, and just about every other aspect of this film was a crime to the Warner Bros catalogue. This isn’t even an enjoyable bad movie: this is one of those trainwrecks that I wish that I looked away from. The only redeemable parts of this film are the scenes where Lebron is 2D animated (so that we don’t actually have to seem his poor attempt at acting), the recruitment sequences for each of the Tunes (no spoilers, but if you are a film fan this will be your favorite portion of the movie), and the background characters creating visual noise to distract you from the groaning inducing basketball game that extends way too long in the final act of the film. Overall, do not waste your money to see this in theaters; either skip it altogether or watch it at home on HBOMax.
3/10 (The recruitment sequences alone bumped it up to a 3)
Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) is rated PG for some cartoon violence and some language.
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