Space Jam: A New Legacy
LeBron James continues to follow in Michael Jordan's steps, including making a cartoonish movie that kids will adore and parents will just have to endure if they love them.
Personally, I think hoops fan Dave Searle said it best:
I did indeed show it to my 7-year-old. Also my 10-year-old. Lloyd the Younger gave it 10 out of 10. Lloyd the Youngest gave it “a billion out of 10.” So, phrophecy fulfilled, Dave.
Warner Bros. opted not to screen the film in advance for critics — usually a sure-fire guarantee they know they have a dog on their hands — though in this case they know nothing we have to say will change anyone’s mind. They were at least kind enough to comp us some day-of-release tickets. I even got the boys candy using an AMC gift card that had been sitting in my pocket for about four years, paying 88 cents out of pocket to cover the rest.
I feel like I got about my money’s worth.
So how bad is “Space Jam: A New Legacy?” Look, the movie knows what it is, I’ll give it that. It’s fast-paced, colorful, goofy and full of almost non-stop action aimed straight at young boys.
LeBron can’t act, and tacitly acknowledges this in an early scene where he’s pitched with using computers to make him an animated movie star, and quips that it usually turns out badly when athletes delude themselves into thinking they can be actors.
(That’s check and mate, Shaquille.)
It follows exactly in the footsteps of the first movie starring Michael Jordan, with LeBron forced to play a game against a nasty Goon Squad with only the misfit Looney Tunes characters in his corner. The twist this time is that his son, Dom (Cedric Joe), has been kidnapped and LeBron has to win if he’s going to save him, as well as everybody in the captive audience.
This is basically just one big piece of product placement for everything in the Warners catalogue, from the Iron Giant to Harry Potter, the D.C. superheroes and everything in between, all of whom make appearances.
I think they’re deluding themselves, though, about how familiar kids born in the last decade or so are with the Looney Tunes critters dating back 80+ years. My kids knew Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, but weren’t that acquainted with Sylvester and Tweetie, Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote and the rest. Foghorn Leghorn was a total mystery to them.
And I still have no idea what that big red furry thing is.
The setup is that an evil sentient algorithm in the computerized “Warnersphere,” who calls himself Al G. Rhythm and is played by Don Cheadle, wants to pump himself up and is enraged when LeBron turns down his idea to digitize him into the movies. So Al zaps him and Dom into his world, butters the kid up and forces him to play a basketball game against his dad.
The “life lessons” part of the flick is that Dom would rather design video games than play basketball, and LeBron has to learn to let go in order to win his son’s heart. Or something.
(It’s not actually his real kid, in case you wondered. His whole family is played by actors.)
Almost the first half of the movie is spent with LeBron going around to recruit and train up his team, during which time he appears as a cartoon character. When it turns to the game in the second half, he gets to return to his human form. He actually looks more plausible as a toon.
For some reason, the famously balding LeBron decided that he needed to have hair for his movie, as if we don’t see him on TV all the time with his mangy scalp and carefully positioned headband.
I’m just sort of amazed that after spending untold millions on all the CGI in this movie, it appears somebody snipped a piece of a putting green, dyed it and pasted it to his skull.
The Goon Squad includes some other NBA and WNBA players, including LeBron’s Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, though they only appear as themselves long enough to get morphed into monstrous creatures.
So, getting back to my question: Is “Space Jam: A New Legacy” a good movie? To quote our president: c’mon, man.
As the great and powerful screenwriter William Goldman once wrote, there are only three kinds of movies: those that are meant to be good and are, those that are meant to be good and aren’t, and those there were never meant to be any good. An astonishing portion of movies fall into this last category, including this one.
But, my kids had a blast. It was their first trip to a movie theater since last spring, and they’ll remember this night. So, I had a blast. I’ll cherish their excited faces and big smiles, and the movie will fade into memory, at least for another 25 years or so when the next GOAT wannabe makes Space Jam 3.