Watching Space Jam: A New Legacy feels like playing a game of compare and contrast with your 1996 predecessor. There is a cute throwback mother and son opening scene to mimic the father and son opening in the original film. There’s even a high-energy montage of lead actor and NBA star LeBron James in the opening credits, similar to the one ex-Bulls player Michael Jordan had in the very first Space Jam. Unfortunately, there is also the recycled plot centered around the need to win a basketball game to defeat the bad guys.
The new Space Jam, available now in theaters and on HBO Max and enjoying a winning opening weekend at the box office – he’s nicknamed a independent sequel, but it doesn’t feel like a full standalone or a full sequel. The film centers on an evil artificial intelligence named Al G. Rhythm (played by Don Cheadle) who traps James and his son Dom (Cedric Joe) in Warner 3000 ServerVerse, a virtual space that governs AI. To free his son and everyone else who entered this digital world, James has to win a basketball game against AI G.’s Goon Squad with the help of the Tune Squad, which is comprised of digitally enhanced basketball stars.
The film faces being a 21st century continuation of a 90s classic. On the one hand, the filmmakers seem determined to show how far CGI and animation technology have come in the past 25 years, injecting special effects and 3D animation throughout, and giving the plot a 21st century update with the inclusion of a malicious algorithm.
On the other hand, Space Jam 2’s desire to tap into the nostalgia associated with its predecessor makes the sequel feel unoriginal and predictable. The movie is at least aware of the strong parallels between it and the original, in which the Looney Tunes recruit Michael Jordan to help them win a basketball game against aliens who want to enslave them. At one point in the sequel, Bugs Bunny says to James, “Do you want me, a talking cartoon bunny, to play with you, an NBA superstar, in a high-stakes basketball game? It sounds terrifyingly familiar.” .
But that self-awareness doesn’t stop the sequel from feeling like nothing more than money theft. Rather than relying on the story of the original film, Space Jam 2 simply forces the old plot into a modern setting, disregarding true originality and creativity.
The underlying conflict between James and his son in the movie also feels predictable and vague. Dom is more passionate about creating video games than playing basketball, which doesn’t sit well with his NBA All-Star father. Al G. uses this disagreement to pit Dom against his father and recruit him for the Goon Squad. Finally, James, with the help of the Tune Squad, realizes the importance of having fun and staying true to himself. It’s an important message, but painfully overused in the movies.
There were some fun elements scattered throughout the movie, like James’s usual digs for team jumping with the NBA (“What brings you to Tune World, Doc?” Asks Bugs Bunny at one point. equipment to play with.? “). There are also fun calls to other Warner Bros. properties like Harry Potter and DC Comics, with cameos from everyone from King Kong to Superman to Pennywise. These trivia help keep parts of the movie interesting, but they’re not enough to keep it afloat when compared to an overall lackluster story.
Though the original Space Jam came out more than two decades ago, it’s still a timeless family movie, in part because it doesn’t rely on special effects to get it going. Space Jam: A New Legacy falls prey to what many of today’s blockbusters are guilty of, which is putting showmanship before substance. That, to me, is not a great legacy at all.