5 winners & 5 losers from 'Space Jam: A New Legacy'
It’s been 24 years since the first Space Jam movie dropped, and at long last Bugs Bunny and Co. are back playing hoops, this time with a new generation’s GOAT.
Comparing LeBron James and Michael Jordan on the court is next to impossible, and the same is true of their respective Space Jam movies. They each represent a different era, and as such, succeed in different ways.
Space Jam: A New Legacy isn’t a perfect movie; more on that later. For now, let’s look at some winners and losers from the film. (Some spoilers ahead)
Winner: Don Cheadle
Boy oh boy does Don Cheadle bring it in this one. It’s no surprise - from Hotel Rwanda to Hotel for Dogs, we’ve always known Cheadle can act his ass off no matter the role.
Cheadle is one of the movie’s most resounding successes. His character, Al G Rhythm may be confusing and awkward, but that doesn’t stop Cheadle. He really knocks it out of the park in this movie.
Big shout out to Don Cheadle. I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually has more lines in this movie than LeBron does, so it’s awesome he dove in head first.
This movie is clearly not for adults, and not just because it stars the Looney Tunes. It’s for teens, kids, and families, and for that reason the film is really successful.
I’m a big fan of Pixar movies like Wall-e and Up, but I know for a fact that young people don’t particularly like those movies. Space Jam: A New Legacy probably works better for kids than those films do, and specifically young people nowadays.
The insistence on a very fast pace, lots of CGI, and a lot of tech really helps make this Space Jam feel like a product of the times. And anecdotally, it seems like it's been a smash hit with young people so far.
Loser: NBA Jam and NBA Street
Early in the movie LeBron’s fictional son Dom shows his dad a basketball video game he created. The game is predicated on fancy footwork, power-ups, and massive dunks. Somehow LeBron is utterly perplexed by this.
Ok, yes, Bron goes on to play basketball with Bugs Bunny, so there’s a lot of suspended reality going on. But we’re just supposed to assume that in this universe there’s no such thing as NBA Jam or NBA Street? Or NBA Street Vol. 2?? It’s a real slap in the face to some of the best video games ever made.
Loser: Michael B Jordan
Michael B Jordan showing up as the "wrong" Michael Jordan was one of the funniest parts of the film. But man, I bet that brought some skeletons out of MBJ's closet.
I can guarantee that Michael Bhas spent literally his entire life saying “No, not THAT Michael Jordan.” He’s a professional actor, and he does great in his lone scene. But I feel for the guy - that must’ve been tough.
Winner: Easter Eggs and Nostalgia
In the age of media conglomerates and streaming wars, there was something enjoyably meta about this movie. Warner Brothers sure does own a lot of intellectual property.
The movie actually did a great job of not over-doing it with mainlining nostalgia (aside from, you know, being a Space Jam sequel). It would have gotten tiresome to spend too much time with Batman or Harry Potter. Save one scene, which we’ll talk about at length, the flashes of nostalgia were pretty tame.
Instead, there are lots of little moments sprinkled throughout. From references to iconic memes, to niche NBA inside jokes, to nods to LeBron’s own career, there’s a surprising amount of meat on this movie’s bones. The Easter Eggs throughout the film are exceptional, and reward your viewing patience (not insignificant for a film that is and feels 20 minutes too long).
Loser: Klay Thompson
Klay is one of the NBA’s most wonderful personalities, but we don’t see much of it in A New Legacy. That's a damn shame.
That’s one place where the original Space Jam has the new one licked. The pro hoopers aren't major players in the film. No Shawn Bradley hitting his head on the door frame, no “I’ll never sleep with Madonna again,” no Pat Ewing air-balling free throws at the Garden.
I would have loved to see more out of Klay, AD, Taurasi, or really any of the real-life pros in general. The film is much more centered on LeBron, the Looney Tunes, and the WB Universe.
Speaking of which...
Winner: Rounding the gang up montages
In any action movie with an ensemble cast, there’s always that scene where they get the band back together. Usually this is some sort of montage, and, when done correctly, it can really make or break the film.
The part of A New Legacy where Bugs and LeBron get the Looney Tunes back from their various WB gigs is simply tremendous. The Mad Max bit alone had me laughing out loud alone in my living room, but really this entire montage was great. This is when the WB nostalgia is at its best.
The movie has some really tough stretches. But the moments when things worked are worth celebrating. This was one of the peaks of the film for me.
Loser: Bad writing
The original Space Jam movie had four credited writers. The film isn’t perfect, but the plot is pretty straight forward, and the writing is clear and concise.
This movie, though, was a bit of a train wreck (no pun intended). According to IMDB, there were fourteen writers on this one, and it really shows.
The dialogue was choppy, and when the characters speak in exposition, it’s actually more confusing. The plot is incredibly busy, and if it wasn’t anchored by “LeBron and the Looney Tunes must win a basketball game,” it may have been a disaster.
This project had been in the works for years, had a ton of constituents and influences, and will still probably do billions in merchandising. It makes sense that there’d be a ton of cooks in the kitchen. Either way, the writing is downright dreadful at times.
Loser: LeBron’s genuine charisma
Likely a product of said bad writing, Lebron is stiff and boring for most of the movie. And when he is allowed to be funny, it feels over-engineered. LBJ doesn’t necessarily come across as super likeable in A New Legacy, although MJ didn’t exactly shine in Space Jam, either.
LeBron is truly hilarious when he wants to be, like during the Miami Heat Harlem Shake video, or in his Sprite commercials. It’s a bummer the movie wasn’t successful in tapping into that more. I would have loved to see LeBron flash a little bit more charisma, frankly.
Winner: Bugs Bunny
Bugs and the rest of the Tunes are very, very fun in this one. The CGI is a little distracting at first, but the Looney Tunes portion of the programming is embarrassingly enjoyable.
Lola Bunny deserves credit for being a badass. Daffy Duck made me chuckle quite a bit. And Wile E. Coyote plays a surprisingly big role in advancing the plot.
Bugs Bunny, though, is perhaps the biggest winner of them all here. Not only does he get all the Tunes back to Looney Tune World, but he also self-sacrifices in a weirdly Christ-like way? Our Lord and Savior Bugs Bunny? Amazing.
This is a dumb, confusing movie that I bet a bunch of kids will love. As a cranky old blog boy, I can admit it had some serious flaws, but I also enjoyed it quite a bit. Overall, it was a success. Congrats to LeBron, Bugs, and the dozens of writers who made this possible.