‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ review: LeBron James tried his best

Space Jam: A New Legacy’, the long-awaited and highly anticipated sequel to Michael Jordan’s 1996 Space Jam movie, starring Los Angeles Lakers megastar LeBron James, is finally in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

After watching the movie the night it came out, I have a lot of takeaways and opinions on LeBron James’ new version of the classic Space Jam movie. Obviously, the plot is pretty different, because you cannot make the same movie twice, so this Space Jam movie has a new and unique feel compared to the first one.

Spoilers ahead. 

In what we are deeming Space Jam 2, LeBron and his youngest son, Dom (Cedric Joe), are pulled deep into a computer at Warner Bros. Studios. Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle), an evil A.I. person-like thing, sucks them into the “serververse”, which is essentially a digital animated Warner Bros. universe.

Similar to Space Jam 1, LeBron must play a basketball game with the Looney Tunes against a superior team. This time, instead of playing to return skills to some NBA stars, the stakes are much higher.

If LeBron James and the Tune Squad win, then he and his son can return back to their normal lives on Earth. However, if the Tune Squad loses, then LeBron, his son, and the millions of people who tuned into the online stream of the game who were also pulled into the serververse (including his family), will remain there forever. In addition, the Looney Tunes would be “deleted” from the Warner Bros. universe.

‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ took a fun new spin with LeBron James

Once LeBron James entered the serververse, the movie was a cartoon for a little. I liked how they did this as it provided a cool cartoon version of LeBron which made him truly seem like one of the Tunes. I appreciate the movie for adding a new animated twist that we did not see in the original.

When the Tune Squad arrived for the game, LBJ was turned back to normal and even the Looney Tunes turned from cartoons into more realistic-looking 3D versions of themselves.

The basketball game itself was based on Dom’s video game that he was creating in real life, which was pretty much an NBA Jam-esque game. The game featured style points and a bunch of other goofy ways to score which I did not mind all that much as it spiced the game up a little more in a silly way.

In Space Jam 2, instead of playing against the Monstars, the Tune Squad plays against the Goon Squad which features animated crazy character versions of basketball stars Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Diana Taurasi, and Nneka Ogwumike.

One of my biggest complaints about the movie is that the NBA and WNBA Goon Squad members were only actually in the movie for about 30 seconds. The players themselves only had screentime during one super short scene, and the rest of the time they were just animated versions of themselves.

Quite frankly, I found the lack of screentime with the actual people to be a lazy move.

However, there was one other person who also got a little bit of screen time and made the absolute most of it, Michael B. Jordan. At halftime of the game, the movie teases bringing Michael Jordan into the mix, but in walks Michael B. Jordan, not His Airness.

This scene was a really nice funny twist, and one of my favorite scenes in the entire movie.

There were other humorous scenes throughout the movie in addition to this one, notably the Bob Knight chair-throwing scene.

However, not all of the attempts at making quality scenes panned out. Specifically, the rap scene stood out as one that they could have done without.

Porky Pig has a scene where he raps as the Notorious P.I.G. in the middle of the game and earns the Tune Squad extra points in the game for spitting a verse. I found the whole idea to be pretty cheesy and I do not think it needed to be included in the movie.

When it comes to cheesy scenes, the one that stood out the most was definitely when LeBron stopped playing when he was going into an iso against his son. He picked up his dribble at the beginning of the fourth quarter to tell his son how much he loved him, and it was a little over the top cringy.

This was a turning point in the movie because Dom switched teams from the Goon Squad to the Tune Squad to join his father in defeating Al-G Rhythm and his Goons. I believe that this lovey-dovey scene would have fit in better if it took place after LeBron and the Tunes got the dub and Dom realized that Al-G Rhythm was a manipulative jerk, not in the fourth quarter.

While the scene was inherently cheesy, the timing of it was what did it for me.

One thing that ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ did well was incorporate LeBron James’ real-life career into the script. The movie joked about how many teams LeBron has played on and even threw in a “watch out Lakers” into the dialogue.

In addition, the famous 3-1 deficit was talked about a few times, but I think the movie missed a huge opportunity to have LeBron talk trash to Klay Thompson about it.

Also, the scene when LeBron is talking about who he wants as teammates and mentions that he could have used Superman in Cleveland stands out as one of the better jokes in the movie.

Was it a jab at Shaquille O’Neal? Was he saying he could have used Dwight Howard earlier on in his career or was he just wishing he had another megastar?

Unless he was referencing Shaq or his lack of support in his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, I am sure some of his teammates with who he won a championship felt uneasy hearing this line. Even though after Kyrie left, in LeBron’s final year in Cleveland he was completely carrying his team alone. In the 2017-2018 season, the team’s second-best scoring option was Kevin Love, who despite being an All-Star that year, was only giving 14.9 PPG on 39.2% FG in the playoffs.

However, I am probably looking into it too much and LeBron was likely just talking about Shaq, as by the time he got to Cleveland in 2009 he was not playing like Superman much at all, despite playing well the previous season for the Phoenix Suns.

Lastly, one of the best references to LeBron’s career was when Lola Bunny and he recreated the iconic Dwyane Wade picture off of a bounce pass to a trailing James (yes, it was off of a bounce pass, not an alley-oop, which is a common misconception).

On another note, I had one more issue with Space Jam: A New Legacy.

While it was cool to see Batman, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and The Wizard of Oz in the film, eventually, all of the Warner Bros. plug-ins became a little overbearing. There was so much “other” Warner Bros. content it made the movie seem like it was more of Warner Bros. flexing all that they have made and less about the Looney Tunes.

Ultimately, I believe it took away from the main storyline and especially the beloved Tunes. It made the movie at times feel like a Warner Bros. victory lap instead of focusing on the basketball game between the Tune Squad and the Goon Squad.

To be honest, I did not hate the idea of having all of the other Warner Bros. content as a part of the storyline, but it eventually became overkill as the movie started to seem like one big Warner Bros. advertisement. I believe that more of this screen time could have been devoted to character development and inclusion, especially for the Looney Tunes.

I will admit though, it was pretty awesome to see the Night King standing courtside behind Coach Al-G Rhythm.

Also, because Time Warner owns TNT, it was great seeing Ernie Johnson commentating for the big game.

To wrap up this review of Space Jam: A New Legacy, the sequel did what it was supposed to do. It provided this generation with an entertaining Space Jam movie. It was a little too cheesy, and some of the lack of character inclusion hurt it. However, it must be remembered that this is a kids movie, so odds are there are going to be parts that appear cheesy to older viewers.

It also should be mentioned that the soundtrack was really good, especially the Lil Baby song with Kirk Franklin, We Win, that opens up the end credits.

I had pretty high expectations, but I would say that the movie was what most people expected it to be, or maybe even a little bit worse. If I had to use one word to describe the movie, it would be “fine”.  As time passes maybe my thoughts will change, but this is my immediate honest opinion.

However, the movie’s shortcomings are not to be blamed on LeBron James, as his acting was solid, but more so on the director and screenplay. At the end of the day, Space Jam 2 did what it set out to do, be an entertaining movie for kids that provides nostalgia and jokes for viewers of all ages.

Speaking of nostalgia, it was especially fun to hear some of the Looney Tunes reference playing in the original Space Jam a couple of times.

In the end, this is a must-see movie for any basketball fan, and regardless of how good it is, it is an overall fun watch. It was awesome to see LeBron James, my all-time favorite basketball player and someone that I looked up to growing up, on the big screen.

It is hard to compare Space Jam 1 and Space Jam 2 because they are such different movies, but if Space Jam was a 9-10 on a 10 point scale, then ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ was a 6.8.