What started as a commercial between Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan turned into a bonafide idea. Turning that commercial into a movie with the Looney Tunes teaming up with the greatest basketball player of all time got us the original Space Jam. For years, fans wanted a sequel, but Jordan didn’t want to return. Speculation ran rampant that Lebron James was in contention for the role, but it became a long-running rumor. It wasn’t until 2014 that actual traction started for another Space Jam with King James. Just like the original, Space Jam: A New Legacy isn’t a great movie, but still a fun time.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is now playing in theatres and available on HBO Max until August 15.
Story: An HBOMAX Commercial
We open with a flashback as a younger Lebron James plays basketball and gets distracted by a video game. After a life-changing one-on-one with the coach, he decides to focus less on fun and put his priority into basketball. This event drives the central conflict between Lebron and his son, Dom, because he wants to design video games instead of playing basketball. The discord does make Lebron look like a jerk judging from his off-screen presence; it feels off. But, the message is of being more unconventional (or dare I say looney) in life.
Eventually, they are warped into the Warner Bros. Serververse that contains all the WB properties run by Al G Rhythm, played by Don Cheadle. From this point, the movie becomes a long HBOMAX ad. We see all the different properties like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, the DC Universe, and many more. The Looney Tunes are split up when we get introduced to them, so Lebron and Bugs Bunny have to recruit the squad from these different worlds of the Serververse. Some scenes of this are good because it’s a mix of both Looney Tunes and the world they’re showing. Other times, it’s so painful and forced.
It wouldn’t be that bad, but then we get all these cameos during the basketball game. You see characters like The Mask, Night King, Gremlins, and many more. They become such a distraction that they take away from the actual game. How can anyone pay attention to the comedy and emotion when you see Pennywise on the sidelines watching and dancing.
Characters & Performance: Squad Up
People often debate who’s a better basketball player; Jordan or Lebron? But in terms of acting, Lebron is the easy winner. Although it isn’t the most substantial script, he does his best. Granted, we’re grading him on the scale of an athlete trying to act. And for the most part, he’s pretty good. He has a natural charisma about him that makes you want to like him. The delivery doesn’t feel wooden, and when he gets to be looney, he succeeds.
Speaking of Looney Tunes, they’re all pretty good. It’s the same characters that we’ve come to love and adore. Even with a few out-of-place jokes (no one never thought Granny would be chugging martinis), they’re easily one of the best parts. Regarding Zendaya’s performance as Lola, she’s pretty solid. It’s definitely not the original Space Jam version, as that felt one-dimensional. Here, she’s kind, strong, and is a leader that makes her stand out.
Another fantastic standout is Don Cheadle as Al-G Rhythm. It’s just so much fun to see Cheadle hamming it up and chewing the scenery. He does it to the point where you love it and doesn’t go overboard when you start to roll your eyes. It’s kind of like he’s a living cartoon character and acts as a great foil against Lebron.
Cinematography & Sound: Sunset Vibes
From a visual standpoint, Space Jam: A New Legacy stands out because of its color palette. This movie features rich colors of a sunset hue. Its dark blues and violets mixed in with some vibrant orange shades are just beautiful. The beautiful style helps to make this movie stand out from the original. Thankfully, just like the original, the art style is exquisite. Even though they turned into CGI for the basketball scene, it’s great to see a massive chunk of the Looney Tunes in traditional 2D animation. Everyone is clean and crisp and shows why 2D animation shouldn’t just go away.
While the complaint of having too many IPs still stands, sometimes, they knock it out of the park. With some of the scenes, they adapt the style of movies or TV they’re parodying. Take the scene where Bugs and Lebron go to the DC world. It’s all in the style of Bruce Timm animation, which is a great touch. Even when they’re forced to include all the references, like having a 3 minute Wonder Woman sequence. Yes, it’s taking up time, but having it done like a comic book coming to life with Bugs going through the panels is a great touch.
Now it’s hard to live up to the original Space Jam soundtrack, as many people consider it iconic. But, there are still some good bangers featured. It’s a composition of all new artists that keeps the energy going. It still would have been nice to have that original Space Jam theme mixed in.
Editing & Pacing: Just the Right Tune
After the opening scene, we’re treated to some outstanding opening credits that showcase Lebron’s career. We start with him getting picked first overall in the NBA draft and watch his career unfold from all the different teams he’s been on to the championships won during that time. There are also clips of some iconic moments of his, like when King James announced, “I’m gonna take my talents to South Beach” and opening up the I Promise school in Ohio.
The game clips also have these effects laid over that feel like a promo for an NBA 2K game. It gives something that’s already exciting to watch that much more energy to it. The opening carries the same page as a lot of the Looney Tunes jokes do land. It’s a great refresher of why these classic cartoons are so widely regarded after all these years. Although, it starts to drag towards the end of the basketball game.