Space Jam: A New Legacy
LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe
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What is most thrilling about A New Legacy is the liveliness of the worlds created, with each destination carrying with it a varying style of animation that brings with it added freshness.
There are big shoes to fill, both literally and metaphorically, when taking on a Space Jam sequel.
The beloved ‘90s flick is, for many, a cherished piece of nostalgia that not only amplified the reputation of basketball superstar Michael Jordan but brought Bugs Bunny and his wacky Looney Tunes comrades back into the mainstream.
Now, twenty-five years later, director Malcolm D. Lee (Girls Trip, Night School) dreams in vibrant-colour and feelgood splendour in the LeBron James (also a producer) lead standalone sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy.
We learn from the get-go that James has worn the expectation of greatness since childhood. Whether from his mother or coach, the payoff brought on from hard work and dedication is not lost on him. Alas, it is a bittersweet farewell to childhood (RIP Gameboy) and all of the activities that, despite bringing joy, are but distractions for James on the path to excellence.
A brief montage highlighting James’ decorated career brings us to present-day Los Angeles. We now meet a dedicated entrepreneur, philanthropist and family man who despite his immense wealth, still carries with him a studious work ethic that he enforces upon his children, particularly his youngest son Dom (Cedric Joe).
Unable to accept Dom’s passion for making video games, opting to have him focus instead on basketball, James must reckon with his beliefs. It is a feat that materialises physically as James and Dom are tricked into entering the Warner 3000 Server-Verse, a digital universe composed of beloved Warner Bros. IP, by a megalomaniac and shimmeringly dressed A.I., Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle, a delight).
Now a hand-drawn being, James is transported to the dysfunctional Looney Tunes world and must reunite the estranged Tunes (a highlight overloaded with fun references to other properties) to defeat Al-G and his team of monster creations in a game of basketball. To lose would result in James’ imprisonment and the deletion of the Looney Tunes.
Had the trailer left you worried A New Legacy would be a busy explosion of Warner Bros. IP fighting for attention, audiences need not fear. Their presence, in large part observed as characters on the sideline, offers both chuckles and a fresh take in showcasing the Tunes brand of animated dysfunction. (We are not quite watching ‘Ready Player LeBron’ but it would not be surprising if Warner Bros. were working on a live-action adaptation of The Iron Giant.)
What is most thrilling about A New Legacy is the liveliness of the worlds created, with each destination carrying with it a varying style of animation that brings with it added freshness. The key standouts here being the 2D elements, a polished homage to the Tunes origins, and the sleek CGI designs of the basketball duel which, along with the bass-heavy soundtrack, plants the series firmly into 2021.
Character-wise, James and Joe’s relationship feels real, even if the script haphazardly dives too deep into the conventions of sports-drama/family storytelling. These bumpy bouts of dialogue, often feeling like cliched pep-talks, remain fleeting, and are often diffused by humour brought out in a solid voice-cast that brims with personality (albeit the occasional Happy Gilmore impression ringing through).
Given the long stint between Space Jam films, it is tricky to predict what is next for the series: Will James return? Can a sequel work with other sports? Will it be a generational thing? Whatever the case may be, if the antics are as good as they are in A New Legacy, this certainly won’t be all, folks.