Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

Quick Synopsis: LeBron James has to win a basketball match in a computer simulation to get his son back, save the looney tunes, and stop countless innocent people being killed by a sentient A.I

Years ago I heard this was being made, and I was excited. I remember enjoying the first one a lot. But since then, something has happened and I’m not entirely sure what. Enthusiasm for the first film has died down. People no longer talk about it as one of the great 90s films. I remember it having a lot of goodwill towards it, but that’s all gone, and I can’t really explain why. I haven’t seen a film go from “nostalgic and beloved” to “oh yeah that existed” so hard since Home Alone, and that had the excuse of multiple terrible sequels. This just sort of faded from collective consciousness.

So has this film done a good job of bringing any of that good feeling back? Nope, if you were one of the few people to have any sense of goodwill towards this franchise, this film will eliminate that. Not to brag, but I knew this movie would be terrible. Okay, that’s really not much of a brag because everybody knew that. They knew that from when they saw the trailer, with Porky Pig rapping (I don’t like pig raps, much prefer them in a sandwich). Then there were all the references to other Warner Bros properties that brought to mind The Emoji Movie or Ralph Breaks The Internet. The actual film is actually far worse than you’d think. The references are both invasive and pointless.

In this universe, all the looney tunes characters have gone to live in other Warner Bros properties. In the quest to find them, LeBron James and Bugs Bunny go into them, so we get scenes which reference the DC animated movies, Casablanca (you know, for the kids), and the Matrix (in a reference which would have seemed dated 10 years ago). That then never really comes up again. They appear in the crowd at the game, that’s where all the references you’ve heard about are. That’s where you get Pennywise, King Kong, and the characters from Clockwork Orange. It’s the Clockwork Orange characters which have caused controversy, with some parents complaining that they’re not appropriate for a kids movie. I don’t get that for two reasons:

  1. The kids won’t see them as “Oh, they’re the violent rapists from that film” unless you’ve shown them the film. They won’t get the reference at all, they’re just see them as weird background characters. They’re only offensive if you know the context.
  2. If you’re going to complain about any characters in this film, complain about the nuns from The Devils in the background, that film still hasn’t been properly released in the US (which begs the question of why they are making a reference to it)

So yeah, they take up a big chunk of the film, and add NOTHING.

This is not a film. This is not something you watch and enjoy or be entertained by, this is just an exercise in brand identity that they want to charge you for. It’s product, not entertainment. I shouldn’t be surprised though. Whenever I saw people exclaim how great this film is, they didn’t talk about how funny it was, or how good it was, the only thing they mentioned was the references. It was basically “hey, this has things I recognise, that means it’s good” attitude which led to things like Epic Movie being watched. .

Fine, I’m done with that now. Now onto the actual film itself. The rest of it is bad too. Nobody seems to be giving a good performance, LeBron just seems confused all the time. He doesn’t have the ability to anchor a film like this. It doesn’t help that he’s not Michael Jordan. Jordan was a once-in-lifetime marketing opportunity. People worldwide knew who he was. Even people who didn’t know anything about basketball recognised him. I imagine that was helped by how much more prevalent basketball was in pop culture in the 90s: the shorts, the attitude, the video games, it all merged together to create a boom period for the sport. LeBron is big in US, and big among a few demographics, but if you went up to random people in UK and asked them to point to a picture of him out of 3 people, they wouldn’t be able to. He hasn’t penetrated popular culture in the same way.

The film? It’s incredibly dull. On the bright side, the way they actually use the cartoon characters is probably better than the first one. It’s certainly more in keeping with their personalities. But the film restricts them for so much of its runtime. It feels like they’re holding them back. If you’re going to play this as a sports movie, at the very least make it a tournament surely? That way you get to see them have fun. I think it’s supposed to be a sports movie anyway, I’m not sure what it’s trying to buy as the film lacks identity.

I can imagine studios wanting this, I can imagine “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we/someone made this movie?”. But what I cannot imagine is “I have a dream, to make a Space Jam sequel, and to make it like this”. There’s no “making this film is my endgoal” to it. I’m willing to bet the people who made it had no ideas before they were approached to make it. It has no love, no passion for the project, it has nothing. It has nothing that the makers can point at and be like “yes, this is the story I’ve been dying to tell people”. The only people who do come out of it with their pride intact are the animators, who do a great job on bringing the 2D characters to life. Other than that? This is a film which is best forgotten, a dodgy knock-off of a film that wasn’t that great to begin with. The kindest thing I can say about it is at least it came out the same year as Tom And Jerry so it isn’t the worst live-action animated hybrid of the year. Going to leave you with a quote from that review that I feel is applicable here:

if you can’t make a good movie, don’t make a movie. This feels like it was made for the sake of being made. Everything about it just screams “contractual/celebratory obligation”. There’s no desire, no passion, there’s no sense that this is what anybody who worked on it has had their entire career building to this moment. Which considering how beloved these characters are, is a real shame. The franchise inspires a lot of love in people, it’s just a shame not a damn ounce of it was in the script