Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

It’s kind of ironic that the villain of the sequel to 1996’s “Space Jam” is named Al G. Rhythm, the physical manifestation of an algorithm who decides the fate of not just star Lebron James but of the Looney Tunes. “A New Legacy” (Or “Space Jam 2”) feels like it was directed not by a person, but a committee of people that followed algorithms about what was appealing to modern audiences, and what was “hip.” The film doubles as a two hour EPK for the HBO Max Streaming Service. “A New Legacy” premieres on the aforementioned streaming service (and theaters), so Warner takes full advantage of exploiting every single (repeat: every single) IP that they have at their disposal.

When LeBron James and his young son Dom are trapped in a digital space by a rogue A.I., LeBron must get them home safe by leading Bugs Bunny, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of Looney Tunes to victory over the A.I.’s digitized champions on the court: a powered-up roster of professional basketball stars as you’ve never seen them before. It’s Tunes versus Goons in the highest-stakes challenge of his life, that will redefine LeBron’s bond with his son and shine a light on the power of being yourself.

I’m not going to pretend the 1996’s “Space Jam” wasn’t about corporate synergy (I even caught on then at the age of thirteen), either. There were advertisements and subliminal winks to every product they could squeeze in to the original film. But a lot of what made the original movie so appealing is all but virtually missing here. The enthusiasm is gone, the soundtrack is lackluster, the movie could stand to be twenty minutes shorter, and the Looney Tunes are just virtual props. While “Space Jam” was about the looney tunes turning to Michael Jordan for much needed help, this time the writers flip the script and make Lebron James the virtual main character. The Looney Tunes all but play second fiddle most of the time, being dragged around and pushed in to a dire situation that James doesn’t seem too concerned with.

They don’t even really appear at least until twenty minutes in to the film, and there’s a heavy focus on how outdated and somewhat obsolete they have become in the grand scheme of modern pop culture. Even with popular actress Zendaya taking the reins as Lola Bunny. Lebron settles for the Looney Tunes to help him win the film’s centerpiece basketball game, often times their humor falls incredibly flat, and there’s not a ton of emphases on their own legacy and what they contributed to pop culture. In fact the whole of the characters are gone when Lebron meets them, as Bugs explains that they left Looney world for better, more desired IP’s.

It’s sad since this movie has the opportunity to show us why the Looney Tunes have had such big places in fans hearts for such a long time. But even when the Tunes shine and take the spotlight, there are still a lot of jabs at them and the previous movie. At the very least Lebron James is a better actor than Michael Jordan, Zendaya does what she can with Lola, and Don Cheadle is fun as the film’s villain. Beyond that, every character beyond the Tunes is stale and one dimensional. The rival basketball team “The Goons” have less focus and are so much less interesting than “the Monstarrs,” and again, there’s no good justification for why every single Warner Bros. property makes an appearance (beyond flexing the streaming service).

I’d love to know the reasoning behind omitting Pepe LePew because he “perpetuates rape culture” however the Droogs (you know… the raping, murdering, elder abusing gang?) from “A Clockwork Orange” can be seen in the audience on multiple occasions. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” might work as a decent distraction for its target audience since it is engineered to hit every targeted demographic. I just wish there was some semblance of life and laughs behind this long gestating follow up.

Now in Theaters and Streaming on HBOMax.