Oh, beloved readers, where, oh, where do I even begin?
A few days ago, I revisited the original Space Jam and found myself enjoying it a lot more than I imagined I would. I cannot say the same for Space Jam A New Legacy, aka The Warner Brothers Infomercial starring LeBron James and Don Cheadle – a film that honestly could have been just as fun as the original, but instead crashes harder than Wile E. Coyote at the bottom of a canyon.
LeBron James plays a version of himself that is a horrible father. He ignores his son’s desire to design an upscale fantasy basketball-based video game and forces him to play basketball. This honestly does not endear us to LeBron, because it displays him as a jerk. Little to Lebron and his son’s knowledge, the Warner Brothers algorithm named Al G Rhythm (Don Cheadle, in one of the film’s few bright spots) is peeking in on their family life and notices this.
The Algorithm wants LeBron James to help push Warner 3000: a new evolution of Warner Brothers Pictures that can scan anyone and put them into any movie. LeBron feels the idea is horrible, while his son feels it is genius. Seeing the rift between father and son, and also angry at LeBron for calling his ideas out as terrible, Al G rips off the plot to TRON to suck them both into the digitized world of Warner Brothers Pictures, aka The Server-verse.
LeBron, still in jerk mode, realizes that Al G has kidnapped his son. In order to win him back, he has to beat Al G at basketball. Only thing is, Al G is using Lebron’s son’s game idea to create the most twisted game of basketball ever. Al G knows that LeBron cannot think outside the box when it comes to the rules on how to play the game, and decides to use this at his advantage.
Meanwhile, LeBron is dropped into the world of the Looney Tunes, who have broken up since the events of the first Space Jam. LeBron and Bugs must team up to visit all the IPs of Warner Brothers Entertainment to bring the gang back together and save his son. Not a bad start, but it’s all downhill from here.
Honestly, the start of the film showed signs that it could have worked. LeBron James has better acting chops than Michael Jordan did in the first film… barely. By contrast, Don Cheadle hams it up perfectly as the villainous Al G. You can tell that he is having fun with his role, even as the rest of the film is falling apart.
The animation and CGI are also top notch in this film. It is great seeing the Looney Tunes gang in their element, and even animated LeBron is a blast to see. It is when Bugs and LeBron go out to bring the rest of the gang back together that the film derails.
One of the elements that made the original Space Jam work was the meta-humor it had. It was self aware of what it was, and didn’t try hard to impress. It was just there to celebrate the career of Michael Jordan and to also have fun. This film forgot all of that. Instead, the meta-humor here is only used to advertise the entire WB film and television catalog. It is so ham-fisted that what is meant to be funny just isn’t.
It’s like Warner Brothers hired those executives who in the late 90s/early 00’s took Disney Synergy to a level of obnoxiousness and said HERE DO THAT WITH OUR IPs! There is just something off putting about having a family film suddenly bring in a cameo from Rick and Morty, who are tired of using The Tasmanian Devil as a test subject. It’s a joke that honestly could have worked but failed. And that is the film’s biggest issue: things that should have worked fail hard. They created the ideas and just left it at that without thinking through how to deliver the results. Think Ready Player One but without the same intelligence.
I think what frustrates me the most about this film was how it could have worked. Then again, this film had six script writers. And it shows. The film has so many disconnects to it that it uses razzle dazzle to hide that fact. The original Space Jam wass not a cinematic masterpiece, but it was at least a fun film. This film is the cinematic equivalent to a Subway Tuna Sandwich: pretending to be something it is not.