Starring: LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Khris Davis
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Running Time: 115 mins
Space Jam: A New Legacy is an American film and the sequel to Space Jam. After finding himself sucked into the ‘ServerVerse’, legendary NBA player LeBron James is challenged by a jealous algorithm to a basketball match, which he can only win by assembling the best team of Looney Tunes he can find.
As I watched this movie, the question went round and round my head again and again: do we need another Space Jam? In short, I can’t give a firm yes, but I can say that this sequel, while far from perfect, does have its strengths, although perhaps not in the places that it really wants to shine.
First things first, it strikes me that there’s one big difference between Space Jam: A New Legacy and its predecessor. While the 1996 film was a brilliantly weird mash-up between basketball and Looney Tunes, this sequel feels much more heavily like a ‘LeBron James’ movie than a Looney Tunes movie.
Now, if you’re into basketball, then that might be just your cup of tea, as the first half an hour or so is entirely focused on James’ family, in a perhaps over-exposed setup to what is ultimately a long slog towards the big basketball game at the end of the movie.
If you’re going into this film looking for Looney Tunes, however, a lot of patience will be needed, and the movie at times feels like a missed opportunity to bring back that classic Warner Bros. humour, instead exchanged for less-than-interesting personal drama surrounding LeBron James.
For a first foray into acting for a sports superstar, James’ performance here is rather good, and definitely improves as the Looney Tunes come into play to take a bit of the pressure of the camera off him. In fact, after a rather tedious opening act, the Looney Tunes really do save this movie, bringing much-needed energy and fun to what starts off as a very slow and sappy affair.
The biggest compliment that I can give Space Jam: A New Legacy is how long it spends with the Looney Tunes in classic animation style. The pressure from studios for all animated movies to be 3D now is immense, but this movie dedicates the entire middle act to the Looney Tunes as they should be: 2D.
Unfortunately, the final act, where the basketball game is played, sees the Looney Tunes turned into 3D, which takes away a lot of their charm and destroys much of the nostalgia you might feel for them. Of everything, that’s perhaps the biggest let-down of this movie, which should have done more to feature 2D Toons right the way through.
Beyond that, Space Jam: A New Legacy doesn’t have all that much to offer. It tries to deliver a Lego Movie/Ralph Breaks The Internet-style integration of various different pop culture properties into the story, from DC superheroes to Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and more, but it all feels rather out of place when you’re really looking for more Looney Tunes action.
Meanwhile, the film’s main ‘villain’, played by Don Cheadle, is too annoying to really cope with. His motivations are childish and boring, and he really gets under your skin in the final act, with his omnipotent abilities ruining what could have been a far more entertaining basketball match.
Overall, Space Jam: A New Legacy is a bit of a mixed bag. Did we need it? Perhaps not, but there are strengths, particularly the energy and humour of the Looney Tunes, LeBron James’ central performance, and the fact that we do get some classic animation too. On the downside, the film struggles with a sappy and boring story, an irritating villain and unnecessary involvement of further Warner Bros. properties in the action. So, that’s why I’m giving the film a 6.2.