With the release of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” I decided that instead of going in blind, I would watch “Space Jam” as a reference point. And watching that movie gave me a perspective of the remake that I wasn’t quite expecting.
For those who have not seen “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” the plot follows LeBron James (who plays himself) and his son Dom (Cedric Joe) who are struggling to communicate as father and son. While Dom is interested in coding and video games, LeBron wants him to focus on basketball. Amid the tension brewing between the two, the main antagonist, Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), an algorithm working for Warner Bros, is trying to gain recognition for his work through partnering with Lebron James. Upon being rejected, however, he decides to take a hold of his fame his own way, using Lebron James and his son to do so. To be specific, he pulls them into the “Serververse,” separates the two, and then challenges LeBron to a basketball game in front of all of his fans. If LeBron’s team wins, he and his son get to go home, but if Al G. wins, LeBron, Dom and all the human spectators pulled into the “Serververse” have to remain there. And for extra incentive, the Looney Tunes, who make up LeBron’s team, will be erased from existence. So it is up to LeBron James and the Looney Tunes squad to save both themselves and the spectators of their showdown against the Goon Squad, the opposing team led by none other than Dom James.
My main problem with this film stems from the preachiness around LeBron and Dom’s relationship. For example, in Dom’s introduction to the movie, he is playing around with his older brother Darius (Ceyair J Wright), making a shot with the basketball. He misses, not really committing to the mini match, and when LeBron sees it he is not happy. LeBron proceeds to give him a full and unwarranted lecture about how he has to put in the work when on the court in preparation for basketball camp—which honestly felt like a slap in the face. We went from a carefree, happy bonding moment to a harsh and sudden lecture. It is awkward to say the least, and Dom’s feelings about both the camp and his father’s treatment are clear—he is frustrated and hurt. This treatment later extends to the Looney Tunes, whose unconventional way of playing basketball just does not seem to cut it for LeBron. On top of that, we have a heavy layer of modern sci-fi, with our algorithm antagonist craving recognition for all of the hard work put in for the service of humanity. The problem with this part isn’t really preachiness, but rather that it feels overdone. The “dangers of technology” is something that is making its way into a lot of media, and so it was tiring to see it again in what was supposed to be a fun-centered film.
The remake falls short of the original. It seemed as if the creators were more so focused on modernizing the plot for the remake, adding more drama, tension and the cliched “beautiful message” at the end. The “looney” nature of the first film that made it so compelling was pushed aside in favor of developing these new additions. Furthermore, by trying to modernize the plot with the introduction of Al G., it causes a bit of confusion in the world-building aspect of the film. If the Looney Tunes world was underground in the first film, how exactly did it transfer over to the “Serververse”? Also, by taking out the “space” aspect of the film, is “Space Jam” really a fitting name? With such a drastic change in the nature of the film, it seems as if the remake was not trying to continue the story, so much as using it as inspiration. The connections between “Space Jam” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy”—basketball and the Looney Tunes characters—just was not enough for me to pass the two films off as equals.
There were parts of the movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. For one, being able to see the different Looney Tunes characters in various Warner Bros worlds was interesting, since I was familiar with the different franchises. On top of that, the introduction of “Dom Ball,” Dom’s video game, provided a fun twist to the basketball game, with the Goon Squad’s special abilities, the incorporation of power ups (specifically a super jump ability) and various style points (special moves that when used can give a team bonus points) bringing it to another level. There is even a rap scene with Porky Pig (Eric Bauza). Plus, the references from the first movie (the “Hoop There It Is” sign referencing the song from the first film, the reappearance of the “Monstars” and the “return” of Michael Jordan) were very much appreciated. I would have to say that the Michael Jordan reference was my favorite reference by far. My favorite part of the movie would probably be right after halftime, when the Looney Tunes re-enter the court in true “Tune” fashion, breaking through a banner constructed by five different Daffy Ducks. At this moment, the movie finally started to feel reminiscent of a “Space Jam” film, with out of the box basketball tactics following suit.
At the end of the day, I think the movie is a way to pass time, but I would not go in with high expectations. If one wants to watch “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” then they should start from the point where Bugs agrees to help LeBron form a basketball team. That way viewers get to take in all of the fun of the Looney Tunes characters and the basketball game, without too much of the father-son tension to bring the mood down.