New ‘Space Jam’ too concerned about Warner Brothers’ past glories to succeed
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” reworks the basic story of 1996’s “Space Jam,” replacing Michael Jordan with LeBron James and giving the plot a 21st-Century spin. This time, LeBron recruits Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes to play basketball against a team of monsters created by out-of-control computer A.I. Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle) to save LeBron’s son, Dom (Cedric Joe) and foil Al G.’s plot.
This movie has no chance to succeed as a story on its own steam. It constantly feels like it’s trying to escape the shadow of Jordan’s “Jam” while still using it as a crutch. And while you don’t have to have seen the old movie to enjoy the new movie, there are several call-backs to the original film. It honestly comes off a bit like the 2016 “Ghostbusters” remake, which wanted to be taken seriously as its own movie but also couldn’t stop reminding audiences of its connection to the classic film.
When “A New Legacy” isn’t trying to be a worse version of “Space Jam,” it’s working feverishly to remind you how many of your favorite movies were made by Warner Brothers Studio. Most of the movie takes place in the Warnerverse, a massive virtual reality featuring different worlds based on popular WB properties like DC Comics and “Harry Potter.” It’s a bit like the OASIS in “Ready Player One.”
This allows “A New Legacy” to have one of its best sequences, where Bugs and LeBron go from the real world to Warner world plucking up Bugs’ old animated buddies. That sequence is quite funny and creative, one of the film’s highlights.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there. The climactic basketball throw-down takes place in front of a host of thousands of WB characters, from King Kong to Scooby-Doo. It’s easy to get distracted from the game every time a new character you didn’t notice before pops up in the background.
On top of that, the first act of the movie takes its sweet time to get rolling. The front end of this movie is concerned with setting up the dynamics within LeBron’s family and while he might be one of the five most talented NBA players ever, he can’t act. He mostly looks confused, as if he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be feeling or how to convincingly portray those feelings.
One other small gripe: When will the folks at WB do something cool and interesting with Marvin the Martian? You guys did my boy Marvin dirty in this flick.
When you boil it all down, there are only really two reasons to see “A New Legacy.” First, Cheadle is pretty good as Al G. Sure, he goes over the top on more than one occasion, but he at least looks like he knows what he’s doing and is having a blast doing it. In fact, his performance makes every other actor in the movie pale in comparison.
Second, the Looney Tunes are their reliably looney selves. The animated portions of this are mostly a blast, with creative gags and all the chaos you expect from Bugs Bunny and the gang. I would prefer that they stayed in their classic, hand-drawn forms and not get a CGI makeover that makes them look like they could be in any computer-animated kiddie flick. But they behave like the Looney Tunes and that’s good enough for me.
I might like “Space Jam: A New Legacy” a little better if I liked basketball or cared about LeBron James. I think kids will enjoy this flick, and let’s face it: They’re the target audience. But I can’t help thinking there’s a much better movie in there that could have been realized had the filmmakers condensed the first act of the movie a little and not wasted so much time reminding us of how great Warner Brothers Studios’ past milestones have been.