Movie Review – Space Jam: A New Legacy

So recently, I was finally able to watch Space Jam: A New Legacy. Since I covered Space Jam, it’s only natural that I review its indirect sequel as well, and I have… some thoughts. I could do some long-winded intro… but nah, let’s just slam right into this jam.

The story: LeBron James, iconic basketball star, is doing the sports and caring for his family. However, he’s not great at the “being a father” thing. LeBron sees potential in his son Dom and forces him down that path, though the boy’s real passion lies in video game design.

Meanwhile in the digital multiverse, a rogue Warner Bros AI (creatively named Al-G Rhythm) wants to be noticed. Seeing LeBron’s fame, he lures him into the studio, cyber-kidnaps him and his son, and forces them into a high-stakes basketball match against each other.

Also, the Tune Squad has split off into different franchise dimensions, so LeBron and Bugs have to go on a side-quest to reunite the gang first.

Right, so let’s get the obvious question out of the way: how does it compare to the original? Well… it’s hard to say definitively. A New Legacy has higher peaks in terms of quality, but also deeper lows in other areas, while Space Jam‘s quality is more consistent overall. It’s a close race, but for that reason, I’d be inclined to give the lead to the original.

Let’s start with the positives. No offense to Michael Jordan, but any way you look at it, LeBron James is clearly the better actor. He puts a lot more emotion into his performance, he interacts more naturally, and his role in the story is much more proactive.

Well, Daffy did tell him to shoot the ball.

Dom is pretty good as well, and the Looney Tunes are the Looney Tunes, just with a fresh coat of paint. You know ’em, you still love ’em. Some of the side characters got more spotlight this time around: Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner received some much-needed love, Foghorn Leghorn and Gossamer joined the team, and Granny trained her reflexes in The Matrix, so that’s pretty neat… though she has a cringe line or two.

Kinda wish they did more with Taz, but that’s just personal preference. As far as the antagonists go? Don Cheadle’s a good actor, sure, but I’m not sure he was the best fit for this role. He just doesn’t have that “AI gone rogue” feel to him. The Goon Squad is kinda… eh? Their designs do portray the “let’s make this OC absurdly strong because it’d be cool” vibe fairly well, but they’re nothing special.

The music was… unremarkable. Not bad per se, just forgettable. I honestly can’t remember a single track that played in it. The zany antics and diverse settings make up for that shortcoming though, so I don’t mind too much.

One thing I really like is that A New Legacy isn’t just a carbon-copy of the original story. In some ways, it directly contrasts it. LeBron James’ troubled home dynamic contrasts quite well with Michael Jordan’s idyllic family life.

“But soft! What sport through yonder window plays? ’tis basketball, and LeBron is the star! Arise, great one, and beat the jealous gamer, who has already turned to cheats, for he, your son, is far weaker than ye.”

It makes sense also that the Looney Tunes would split off to do their own thing if allowed to explore a larger universe, though I’m not entirely sold on Bugs being the only hold-out. Also, the modern age of technology opens the door for some clever ideas that would’ve been inconceivable 25 years ago.

Speaking of technology, the animation is a solid improvement over the original. Not that that’s a fair comparison, of course, given the age gap, but still. Setting aside the obvious, it also resolves a complaint I had with the original. Whereas Space Jam distorts the actor’s actual life-like proportions, A New Legacy reshapes the character’s bodies to stylistically match each world (see the images below and above). This was definitely the right call, it looks a lot more natural this way.

That being said, some results were better than others. The classic DC cartoon world worked great, but the Mad Max: Fury Road style didn’t translate well, and some of the HD-remastered Tunes (Taz in particular) don’t look quite right to me.

Now, the movie’s biggest crime: pandering. I mentioned before that Space Jam was a bit of a cash-grab… but here, it’s blatantly obvious. We get it, Warner Bros, you own the rights to a lot of franchises. You don’t have to use them all as background cameos. Only three reps even did anything plot-wise: Superman, Wonder Woman, and… Rick Sanchez, oddly enough.

*insert witty big chungus joke here*

If it’s going for the nostalgia angle, I guess that’s fine… but then why distance itself so much from Space Jam? You can’t have it both ways. The opening sequence was a nice call-back, but we don’t get much else aside from a few throw-away jokes (the Michael Jordan mix-up was hilarious, admittedly) and a brief cut to the Nerdlucks in a crowd.

That moment just… agh, c’mon, that was just infuriating. You’re telling me the first movie’s main antagonists get less screen-time than Pennywise, whose presence wasn’t even acknowledged? (an even more annoying fact, I learned later, is that that shot is actually just re-used animation from the original.) If you’re only gonna flash them on-screen for an instant, you might as well not have them there at all… but I digress.

To conclude… I did like this movie, and it’s rather fitting as a tribute to the original. There are some creative choices I dislike, but there’s nothing I really hate about it, so I’ll give it the same rating as the original.

In Need of Repair