Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

“You can’t be great without putting in work.”

Overlong, overblown, and emblematic of what can go wrong when a studio so obviously sees its big budget picture as a product instead of an actual film, Space Jam: A New Legacy is a swing and miss devoid of any semblance of personality. It’s not an outright dud, but the misfires ring early and often, landing like anvils and pianos in this pseudo sequel. There’s no cohesion, no tone, and no organic creativity to this new spin on Space Jam. It’s all carefully coded and curated 0’s and 1’s. I found it almost completely lifeless.

Thick on the surface and thin on the little things that make a big budget movie more than a spectacle, Space Jam: A New Legacy never really negotiates or navigates its way through its obscure premise at any given time, even though the film admittedly does achieve an intriguing enough hook to keep us tuned in from the jump. LeBron James dives into the Warner Brothers “Serververse” while chasing after his techy son Dom (Cedric Joe), they come across the conniving Al G. Rhythm (a conniving yet trite role played by Don Cheadle), and a global online sporting event is born. It’s a father and son duo that squares off as foes, and it immediately turns foul before somewhat saving face.

My biggest concern going in to Space Jam: A New Legacy was that the film wouldn’t have a fresh setup to suck audiences back into its Looney Tunes antics, and that’s actually the area where the movie excels the most. The loose logic matches the current landscape of obsessive gamers, honors the previous outing featuring Your Airness, and at its worst is a nostalgic piece of storytelling that reveres an original movie that’s a lot worse than we remember. Space Jam wasn’t a great movie and A New Legacy doesn’t add much value either. They’re both corny and punny and pretty unfunny. This second foray is just a whole lot less focused.

Alternating between real screen time and solid cartoon sequences (presumably to save its star athlete time on and off the court), Space Jam: A New Legacy lacks cohesion, and it simply goes wrong in all of the ways that similar films like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle or Ready Player One went so right. The first Jumanji sequel told a proper story with dramatic heft, and the Steven Spielberg directed epic incorporated outside material in a way that made sense and elevated the overall picture. Director Malcolm D. Lee did the best that he could here, but there’s only so much you can do with a movie that’s hamstrung by this much studio oversight. Is this a kids movie? Is it for teens? Who are the multiple Casablanca references directed at? Space Jam: A New Legacy has no aim or endgame. It has the confidence and the look to approach the line late in the fourth quarter, and enough skill to gracefully shoot an airball. It looks great but falls so short.

“Send this clown to the rejects.”

Rating: 2 out of 5

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