By Paul Hall
Basketball is filled with tunes. Arenas, telecasts and halftime shows ring solid with some of the hottest tunes around. Some players even drop their own tunes (I’m looking at you, Damian Lillard). But today’s players have never really experienced toons, until now, as Space Jam: A New Legacy hits the screen.
LeBron James stars in both human and animated form in this new spin on the Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny film from 1996. Not really a sequel, though many of the gags and film sequences are clever homages, A New Legacy puts LeBron straight in the middle of the cartoon action.
LeBron is raising his son the best way he knows how. But while one of his son’s wants to follow dad’s basketball lead, Dom (Cedric Joe) is more of a tech wiz and has other dreams. While LeBron tries to understand, he struggles to see the importance of Dom’s pursuits.
When LeBron gets a call from Warner Bros. studios for a new pitch, he takes Dom to enjoy something outside of basketball. The two arrive and hear a crazy pitch instituted by an algorithm within their servers. But this is Looney Tunes, and the algorithm actually takes human form as Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle). He has plans for power and needs to pit LeBron against the world, allowing the man to assemble a team of some of the land’s best Looney Tunes in an attempt to reach his son. Game on.
Warner Bros. and the filmmakers have tongue planted firmly in cheek throughout this film, as there are plenty of references to the original Space Jam starring Michael Jordan. There are uniforms and characters and jokes throughout, but they don’t have nearly the same impact on today’s viewers.
To bring things to a new generation, we import a list of today’s basketball stars from the NBA and WNBA, and we experience a movie that is loaded with characters from other WB properties. What would have felt fun in a small dose was administered with a shovel instead of a teaspoon and reached an obnoxious level.
Plenty of product placements are found in the nearly two-hour offering. You will be able to buy a lot of merchandise at every outlet you can think of, and the film seems to set up a potentially fun game, but as a movie it felt somewhat deflated.
I’ve long been a fan of Bugs Bunny, and he really hasn’t aged much, if at all, and seeing a variety of characters appear, from Porky Pig to Daffy Duck and, of course, the incomparable Lola Bunny, made for a pleasurable return for the characters I loved. But overall, instead of being a fun new look at our favorite characters, A New Legacy seems like it would just prefer to turn the ball over.
A new toon hits the floor with Space Jam: A New Legacy, but comes up short and falls flat in this game.
Paul’s Grade: C-
Space Jam: A New Legacy
Stars: LeBron James, Cedric Joe, Don Cheadle
Director: Malcolm D. Lee