It’s no surprise that nostalgia of one’s childhood is captivating and irresistable. Combine that with one of the biggest names in sporting history, references to classic Warner Bros. properties, and a plot about a father and son bond, and you should have a recipe for success right?
In the case of Space Jam: A New Legacy, this is somewhat true.
A sequel to the popular 1996 film, Space Jam, that redefined the sports film genre by making it a fun-filled family film for all, Space Jam: A New Legacy had a lot to live up to. With so much hype for a Space Jam sequel spanning years, along with amazing collaborations with popular brands to drum up excitement for the film, including a collaboration with one of my favourite brands in the world, Xbox, to say that I was excited to finally watch the film is an understatement.
Space Jam: A New Legacy follows one of the world’s greatest athletes, LeBron James, whose relationship with his son, Dom (Cedric Joe), is strained due to LeBron’s old school methods of training. This leads to a series of events that essentially sets up a plot similar to the original film, though with updates in keeping with today’s modern world, wherein LeBron is sucked into another dimension by Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle) and challenged to a basketball match in order to save his son.
Of course, no basketball match is fair in a Space Jam film, with LeBron being essentially ‘stuck’ with selecting a team from the ‘rejects’ a.k.a the toons of Tune World. Meanwhile Al G. Rhythm makes use of Dom’s love for creating video games to his benefit and recruits some of the best NBA players for his Goon Squad.
Instead of being focused on basketball, which is what a sports film should be based on, the bulk of Space Jam: A New Legacy was spent traveling between the multiple worlds within the Warner Bros. “Serververse” in order to recruit the Looney Tunes members that had left Tune World. This was certainly a trip that had me grinning ear to ear, with several references to my favourite shows and films, as well as cameos.
To a large extent, the entire film felt like a Warner Bros fanfest – an opportunity for Warner Bros. to remind us of the existence of so many popular properties within their world, including the likes of DC Comics’ superheroes, Hanna Barbera cartoons, and many more.
While this was definitely a fun-filled adventure down memory lane for me, as a pop culture nerd, it did act as a distraction from having proper plot and character development. The characters, while loony with several humourous moments, somewhat fell a little short, and there was very little relationship building between LeBron and the toons to make it believable compared to the relationship Michael Jordan had with the toons in Space Jam. Perhaps, watching the film as an adult has made me more critical.
The lack of development and time for each character to truly shine wasn’t the only disappointing factor in the film. In trying to remain set in today’s modern, technology filled world, Space Jam: A New Legacy seemed to have forgotten what made the original film great in the first place, basketball. While basketball was the competition of choice, the game that was played was far from being basketball. Instead what we saw was more of a video game with cheats and power-ups that didn’t add for any special moments or showcase real ‘talent’. In many ways, the entire match having talented basketball players was completely unnecessary. There was absolutely no reason why the Goon Squad needed to have been made up of NBA legends like Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Nneka Ogwumike and Diana Taurasi.
Next to the character development, basketball training scenes and classic humour, what really made the 1996 Space Jam so memorable was its soundtrack. From Jock Jams’ “Are You Ready For This?” to R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”, Space Jam was filled with memorable music. I couldn’t even tell you what I heard while watching Space Jam: A New Legacy. If there was a soundtrack, it certainly wasn’t memorable.
That being said, I still found Space Jam: A New Legacy entertaining with rather funny throwbacks to some of my favourite scenes in shows that I grew up with and characters that I absolutely love. There was also one special cameo scene that was a ‘wonder’-ful moment, which had me on the edge of my seat, yanking at my partner’s arm in excitement.
Ultimately, Space Jam: A New Legacy was nothing more than a nostalgia fest that millennials could enjoy and relive their childhoods, while kids sat back and were entertained by the various loony moments and bright colours. It was the perfect showcase / marketing tool for Warner Bros. too, being a way for them to showcase the vast properties in which they own and the Universes that they lay claim to. As for LeBron James? Let’s just say that he should stick with basketball.
Overall, as much as there was a lot lacking in the film, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’m a sucker for reliving childhood memories and as someone who’s very in touch with her inner child, did find the film enjoyable for the most part, if I didn’t think about it too much or take it too seriously. It also helped that I was lucky enough to have been invited to the Melbourne premiere, which was an absolute blast. The pre-show festivities that the Warner Bros team put together was such fun that it was impossible not to smile as soon as I sat in my seat in the cinema and began watching the film.
So, in a nutshell, I enjoyed Space Jam: A New Legacy and believe anyone who loved the original Space Jam should give it a watch. Whether I’d recommend watching it on the big screen is another story.