Space Jam: A New Legacy is the long-awaited big screen return of both the franchise and the Looney Tunes themselves. This time, the story revolves around NBA superstar LeBron James trying to get his son back from Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), the ruler of Warner Bros. Serververse. The Serververse is a digital universe filled with many famous Warner Bros. legacy characters such as Superman, Scooby-Doo and Severus Snape, just to name a few.
The original Space Jam is a film many grew up watching and rewatching, including myself. It was a well-made children’s film that adults could also enjoy; however, the same cannot be said for this new incarnation. Space Jam: A New Legacy is nowhere near as fun as the original and fails to separate itself from it.
The plot and how it plays out is extremely similar to the original film, making this feel more like a remake than a sequel, even though the film is constantly calling back to the original. Not fully embracing either making a sequel or a full-on remake really sinks this plot to the ground for those who have already seen the original. It consistently feels like a retread of other things instead of forming its own identity.
The best parts of the film are the 2-D animated segments, which make up around thirty percent of the runtime. The animation on display in these 2-D segments is incredible, evoking the Looney Tunes style of old and updating it in a vibrant and exciting way. These segments also feature the actual Looney Toons more heavily than the rest of the film, which is great because they’re easily the most entertaining aspect of the film. It’s very disappointing that they’re so underutilized in the rest of the film.
LeBron James is fine in his role as himself, but the film makes him pretty unlikeable from the outset. He doesn’t support his son’s dreams and forces basketball down his throat. Yes, this sets up his arc for the film, later realizing he was wrong about what he was doing, but making him this harsh and unaccepting for the vast majority of the film is a strange choice.
Don Cheadle’s villainous Al G. Rhythm is a fun addition to the film, though that’s all thanks to his scenery-chewing performance and no thanks to the script. Cheadle sells this character from the get-go, mostly due to how much fun you can tell he’s having in the role. Without Cheadle’s performance, the character would be an otherwise forgettable and cliché villain.
Now to address the elephant in the room, all the Warner Bros. properties shoved on screen. The seemingly endless number of cameos get stale and repetitive quickly, most of them being completely pointless to the film at large. Only a select few of the aforementioned cameos actually impact the plot and even then they could still be easily cut. The sheer amount of Warner Bros. characters, films and worlds shown is absolutely ridiculous; it feels more like Ready Player One than Space Jam at times. For example, Granny and Speedy Gonzales’ first appearances are in a recreation from a scene from The Matrix. Referencing and lampooning an R-rated film from the 1990s in a newly-released PG children’s film is an odd choice, especially when almost every other scene is completely family-friendly.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is in a weird space between being too much like its predecessor while also being an extended advertisement for other Warner Bros. properties. While it starts these brand integrations rather innocently, they quickly become way too much for the film to balance and take away a lot of attention from its actual characters, especially the Looney Tunes. The endless cameos also kill much of the fun that could be had with the Looney Tunes catalogue of characters, taking up a lot of runtime that could’ve belonged to them.