Whilst subtitling the film “A New Legacy” seems a bit too confident for the team behind this Space Jam sequel, it’s arguably not straying too far from the truth in relation to its selected talent. Whilst the original film received a mixed reception upon its release in 1996, it made considerable bank and has, in the 25 years since, earned feedback of a more positive nature. Similarly, if anyone was going to be considered a “legacy” in the same vein as Michael Jordan, it’s LeBron James.
As a 12-year-old when the original film opened – and growing up in a basketball-enthused household to boot – I was undoubtedly Space Jam‘s target audience. For Space Jam: A New Legacy? Not so much. In fact, I’ll admit to seeing this film without much enthusiasm at all, so you can imagine my surprise when, whilst not being entirely won over, I was entertained by what was unfolding in the 115 minutes before me. Whether it was a genuine entertainment or more aghast at some of the adult properties this film references – there’s one particular sequence featuring a slew of popular (and quite mature-aimed) Warner Bros. titles that is genuinely wild in what it portrays – A New Legacy was an experience that made a few neat shots throughout its attempt to continually slam-dunk.
Adopting a different narrative than the first film, A New Legacy ropes in its LeBron vs. Looney Tunes hook by introducing a villainous, self-aware A.I. system – the Warner Bros. “server-verse” overseen by the villainous Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle, clearly enjoying himself as he camps it up accordingly) – who doesn’t take too kindly to LeBron (unfortunately not flexing the charm he naturally possesses or displayed in his heightened Trainwreck performance) dissing the studio’s idea of injecting his likeness into a large number of their properties.
Its enough to make an A.I. downright looney, and because LeBron’s son (Cedric Joe) is on the outs with his famous father over his interest in creating a video game instead of playing basketball, this naturally leads to the idea of a son vs. father championship in the animated Looney Tunes world that Al has compromised. Of course it doesn’t make much sense – and LeBron never seems like he’s remotely worried or perplexed by the fact that he’s been transported into a computerised animated world – but A New Legacy never aims for overt intelligence. The sight gags for each of the Looney Tunes characters – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn and Marvin the Martian, just a few of the familiar faces on hand – aim for the lowest comedic denominator, and the young audiences at bay are likely to be easily indulged.
Where the film can’t quite find its balance is in its depictions of humour aimed for the adults likely to be in tow with their young tykes. Whilst it would be asking too much for A New Legacy to provide genuine comedic wit, the fact that the six-person strong script manages to deliver some truly wild visual treats solely for older audiences – as well as one particular gag that manages to be brilliantly executed in spite of how pronounced it ultimately is – proves their capabilities in catering so, leaving the fact that the film often aims for such simplistic child humour all the more disappointing.
A film that manages to visually reference characters from Game of Thrones, A Clockwork Orange, and The Matrix alongside the more family-friendly creations as Speedy Gonzalez (voiced by Gabriel Iglesias) and Lola Bunny (Zendaya) is one that should feel more bold than what this Space Jam achieves. There’s wonder and disbelief to be held (try explaining A Clockwork Orange to your kids) but A New Legacy is mostly child-friendly fare that proves a colourful, inexplicable distraction that’s unlikely to retain, ironically, any type of legacy for itself.
TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Space Jam: A New Legacy is screening in Australian theatres from July 15th, 2021, following advance screenings from July 8th. It will be released simultaneously in American theatres and digitally on HBO Max on July 16th.