Disclaimer: Advance screening provided by Warner Bros. The film will be released on July 16th in theaters and on HBO Max.
Serving as a soft reboot of the 1997 original, Space Jam: A New Legacy stars LeBron James as he finds himself on a journey to assemble a star team to rescue his son. Before we begin, let’s get one thing clear: this movie is horrendous. The cast members who care do their best to salvage the dumpster fire that is Juel Taylor‘s script, but ultimately fail; which is unfortunate as some of the actors are more than competent. We’ll begin with some of the positive aspects.
Surprisingly, LeBron is a better actor than expected. His line delivery is believable, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Less surprising is the charisma brought by Jeff Bergman’s iconic Bugs Bunny, who is the only character sporting no significant flaws. Furthermore, the chemistry between the central cast members is undeniable, and there were quite a few amusing quips between the ”Toons.” Although overused, the effects are vivid, colorful, and don’t feel uncanny for the entirety of the first two acts. Lastly, the 2D animation of the Looney Toons world is crisp and heartwarming.
That said, the elephant in the room is the horrendous screenplay. The catalyst that kicks off the story is LeBron’s invitation to the Warner Bros. Studio, where he is offered the opportunity to be digitized and star in a series of movies and shows. This concept presented an intriguing, relevant plot line about the morality of digitally recreating actors, but that possibility was immediately shot down as James calls the idea ”the stupidest thing he’s ever heard.” This angers Don Cheadle’s ”Al-G Rhythm“ (yes, seriously) and causes him to abduct LeBron and his son Dom into the main set piece of the film, the “Warner Brothers Serververse” (again, seriously). At no point is there a semblance of plausibility in sight. It is within this ”Serververse” where the principal issue of the movie presents itself. The audiences’ enjoyment of the film rests on the assumption that they’ll be pleased by being bashed with a constant stream of aimless fan service as our main characters travel to the worlds of the DC Universe, Mad Max, and more. While this will surely entertain some, it has been proven time after time that familiar characters won’t make a story any better, even if it will sell tickets.
Cheadle’s Rhythm serves as a foil to LeBron, who struggles to connect with his son Dom and his love of games. Presenting himself as accepting of who he is, Rhythm wins the love of Dom and recruits him for the “Goon Squad.” Consequentially, LeBron is unlikable for the vast majority of the film as he mistreats his son on multiple occasions, which is inconsistent considering he cares for the Looney Toons characters as his family from the moment they meet. Despite the inconsistency, the film otherwise delivers in conveying the awkward struggle of parenting; albeit in a formulaic way. One of the larger letdowns within the movie was that Don Cheadle, arguably one of the most talented members of the cast, gave one of his weakest performances to date. His ”character,” which is really just a mustache-twirling computer algorithm, isn’t believable for a second, and it never becomes clear whether or not he was trying to come off as corny.
The final basketball game features a CGI cesspool with virtually no stakes, as the villain takes such a great lead off the bat that the remaining 40 minutes surround the strategy of the Looney Toons‘ plan to make a comeback. Complete with cameos from every significant Warner Bros. property, it is at this point that the film devolves into unbridled absurdity. Even the name itself: “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” feels like a cash grab, as the movie features nary a mention of the cosmos in the entirety of its two-hour runtime.