The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent Tony Farinella.
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is a film which was doomed from the start for one major reason: certain people do not like LeBron James and have an agenda against him. Because they have these feelings, they were not going to like this film no matter what. Personally speaking, I have nothing but respect for James as an athlete and a human being. He has been a very charitable individual and someone who is very honest and giving. However, people have this obsession with comparing him to Michael Jordan and these films. The original “Space Jam” was released 25 years ago, and it’s not like it was a classic. Nostalgia wins over a lot of people as they pine over “the good old days.”
I have watched “Space Jam: A New Legacy” twice now, once on HBO Max and once on Blu-Ray. I enjoyed it on the first viewing, probably because I went into the film with such low expectations and allowed other people to get inside my head. I thought to myself, that was an enjoyable film for both young teens and older adults to watch together. After a second viewing, I must sadly admit it does not hold up very well as I see a lot of flaws. That being said, it’s not as bad as everyone makes it out to be with their ruthless bashing. It’s merely a well-intentioned misfire.
James plays himself, and he’s trying to be a good father to his son Dominic (Cedric Joe) by pushing him to be the best basketball player he can be, day in and day out. Dominic, however, is much more interested in video games, specifically developing them and trying to make basketball games more fun with style points and other cool features. In a flashback scene, we see how James was forced to throw away his Game Boy and focus on basketball, which is why he is this way toward his son. His fictionalized wife, Kamiyah James (Sonequa Martin-Green), is trying to get her husband to lighten up and take it easy on their son.
One day, James is dragged along into a meeting with Warner Brothers where they want to further his brand into other film and television avenues. James would rather focus on basketball and politely rejects their offer. This does not sit well with Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle) who believes James is just the right star to get in his Serververse called Warner 3000, which can put the basketball star into a number of Warner Brothers films and TV shows. The executives at the meeting are played by Sarah Silverman and Steven Yeun, and I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of them here. As a matter of fact, the best scenes in the film are the ones which take place in the real world and not in the “serververse.”
James is not afraid to have a laugh at his own expense, and this is part of the charm of this film. They talk about the fact he has been on three teams. He was great in 2015’s “Trainwreck.” He has charisma, and I could see a future in acting for him whenever he decides to retire. I’ve always found him incredibly likable. The heartfelt scenes with him work. However, when he’s recruiting the Looney Tunes or when he’s playing a game to win back his son from Al G. Rhythm, the film gets really bogged down.
Back to the plot for a moment; once James turns down the opportunity to work with Warner Brothers, Al G. Rhythm is none too happy and decides to brainwash Dominic into playing a game of basketball against his own father using his video game rules. I don’t think a children’s film should be this convoluted or long. Seriously, the film is almost two hours long.
Essentially, what you have here is three things in “Space Jam: A New Legacy:” First, you have James trying to get his team together to win his son back and get him back to the real world. The scenes with him trying to recruit the Looney Tunes are enjoyable to a point, but the filmmakers spent too much time on them. Second, you have the basketball game which features incredibly annoying and silly commentary from Ernie Johnson and Lil Rel Howery. This game is just ridiculous. Finally, the best scenes, as mentioned, are the ones where James gets to be a human being and not a basketball player spouting off cliches or a cartoon character. We needed more of this.
A lot of people were upset with all of the self-promotion Warner Brothers did for “Space Jam: A New Legacy” as far as showing off all of the properties they own such as Harry Potter and “Game of Thrones.” This, however, did not bother me, as if you have these things, why not show them off? I got a kick out of seeing Pennywise at the big basketball game. My issue is this film is too long, uninvolving and uninteresting. I felt they could have made an enjoyable, yet heartfelt, children’s film for the whole family to enjoy together as one. Instead, I can’t imagine kids understanding a lot of the technology terms, and it’s too foolish for parents to enjoy. It made money, so there was an audience for it out of curiosity I imagine. I was hoping for more use out of the many basketball stars featured here, but they are all quickly turned into video game characters. Everyone meant well here, but they tried to do too much when a simple and shorter approach would have been best.
* * out of * * * *
Blu-Ray Info: “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is released on a two-disc Blu-ray Combo Pack from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It also comes with a digital copy of the film as well. It has a running time of 115 minutes and is rated PG for some cartoon violence and some language.
Video and Audio Info: It is released on 1080p High Definition with the audio coming in on Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, English, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish as well.
First Quarter: Game On
Second Quarter: Teamwork
Third Quarter: Out of This World
Fourth Quarter: The Looniest
Should You Buy It?
I can’t recommend “Space Jam: A New Legacy” as a purchase. I can’t imagine it will get any better with multiple viewings. As mentioned in my review, I enjoyed it as nonsensical fun the first time around. On the second viewing, I saw a lot of holes in the film. The special features are pretty lacking as well. The film is very colorful and bright. I feel like they could have made a good film as LeBron James is a superstar and box-office draw. For as many haters as he has, he does move the needle, and a lot of people do care about him. He can also act! They just needed to give him a better script. He’s a smart guy, and I’m very surprised he didn’t notice a lot of these flaws when he read the screenplay. He has shown a knack for making good decisions with his business ventures, but he missed out with this one. I’d rent it at Redbox if you are curious about it. Just know this: It’s not nearly as bad as everyone says it is. It’s just run-of-the-mill and forgettable.