‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ Film Review

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) - IMDb

Back in 1996, a little movie called Space Jam was released. Not only did it define the 90s, but many people who grew up in that era fondly remember it as a nostalgic fever dream that had no right to be as popular as it should have been. Now, 25 years later, a sequel has finally been released. Known simply as A New Legacy and starring LeBron James in place of Michael Jordan. Much like the original, A New Legacy combines animation with live-action, albeit with some updates to place itself in the annals of modern films. All in all, it is merely a shameless, self-aware exercise to see how many IPs can be in one film (It worked with Ralph Breaks the Internet and Ready Player One, so why not this?); some funny, some distracting, all just there for viewers to point and say “Oh, look who it is.”

The story of A New Legacy is the same as the original Space Jam to the point where its first twenty minutes nearly follow the same formula beat for beat, from its introduction of young LeBron (Stephen Kankole) and how he got into the sport of basketball, to its main title sequence which shows compilation videos of an older LeBron playing for the NBA, to even the introduction of its villain; yet instead of a cigar-chomping alien voiced by Danny DeVito, we get a stressed-out algorithm named Al G. Rhythm played by a scenery-chewing Don Cheadle. Yet there is a bit of a difference; LeBron is trying to get his young son, Dom (Cedric Joe) into basketball as much as he is, only the kid wants to be a game designer instead of following in his dad’s footsteps. He even has a game ready for development which looks pretty good for a kid his age.

One day, while visiting Warner Bros. Studios, LeBron and Dom end up finding themselves in a Matrix-like area called The Serververse, conjured up by Al G. and end up falling into the algorithms trap. Dom ends up kidnapped and the only way for LeBron to get him back is to challenge Al G. to a basketball game, of course. LeBron then gets sent to Tune World (or “the rejects” as Al G. calls it), where the only inhabitant is Bugs Bunny (Voice of Jeff Bergman), who spends his existence trying to be as loony as possible, making caricatures of his Tune pals to keep himself entertained after they left to many other worlds in the Serververse. From there, you should know how it goes. The first half shows LeBron and Bugs stealing the ship of none other than Marvin the Martian (Voice of Eric Bauza) in order to track down the rest of the Tunes in many different worlds, all while prepping them for the game, while the second half is an extremely CGI’d spectacle of a basketball game, where the Tunes look photorealistic, dozens of cameos from many different Warner Bros. projects show up in the audience, and instead of the Monstars from the first film, we get an advanced rival team known as the Goon Squad (monstrous caricatures of current NBA players). There are also lessons of family and staying true to yourself in the midst of all this madness.

As you can see, A New Legacy has a lot to work with in terms of being on the same level of Space Jam while keeping up with the trends of the modern day, all while showing the history of Warner Bros. films. As chaotic as it all is, A New Legacy is fun if you let it; feeling like a Looney Tunes movie in terms of style. The animation on display in its first half makes me miss the old days of 2-D animation and adds to the fun and enjoyability, while the CG in its later hour is no slouch either. Though what impresses me more is the way certain tunes are blended in to the many products of the WB canon, ranging from funny to insane (Wile E. Coyote chasing Road Runner in Mad Max: Fury Road, Elmer Fudd replacing Mini-Me in Austin Powers, Granny and Gabriel Iglesias’ Speedy Gonzales using the power of bullet time in The Matrix and even Zendaya’s Lola Bunny training in Themyscira from Wonder Woman are just a few to mention).

As nostalgic as the first Space Jam is, there is no denying that it has aged poorly in terms of animation and quality (or it was never noticeable in a young persons’ eyes). Time will tell if A New Legacy will have that same effect. Kids’ will obviously love it, while adults may find it to be just dumb harmless fun, or cash-grabbing shamelessness. I will say that it is a tad better than the 90s film.

GRADE: B-

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