This damn movie has been out for an entire month and considering I work in a movie theatre, you would think that I would’ve seen this by now. I had even seen the first half-hour at home but stopped because I genuinely wanted to watch this theatrically. After a tedious month of planning, I finally got a chance to watch the movie and honestly the lengths I went through to watch this movie is the biggest compliment I can give it, that I respected it enough to watch it on the big screen… in a pandemic.
Like most children, I grew up watching the iconic Looney Tunes. As expected, I loved them, they’re iconic as I just said. HOWEVER, I didn’t grow up with ‘Space Jam’. I was the anomaly that grew up with the fever dream that was ‘Looney Tunes: Back In Action’. The first time I ever watched ‘Space Jam’ was last month and it was exactly what I wanted it to be; complete and utter nonsense. Logic doesn’t apply to ‘Looney Tunes’ but it especially doesn’t apply to this movie and it’s what made it so appealing. It was a very obvious cash-grab but it was also short, cute and straight-to-the-point. Now comes this sequel and it is genuinely hilarious to me that there are people out there that are claiming this ruined their childhood. Especially when it’s literally the same exact plot only this time we have a new, inadequate basketball star in the lead role.
minor spoilers for ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ are included in this review.
‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ never tries to be anything it’s not. It is an ironically perfect mix of business-led storytelling and genuine love and care. It was a blast seeing Bugs Bunny and LeBron gather up all of the characters for his team. I for one, actually loved all of the references to the Warner Bros. classics. Coyote and Road Runner in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ was something I didn’t know I needed. The obligatory DC scene was expected but they weren’t lazy with it. It was such an unexpected surprise to see that nostalgic 90’s hand-drawn animation and style return, even if for just a single scene. In fact, for all of the complaints being thrown at this movie, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone praise the animation. This movie delivered on that classic ‘Looney Tunes’ chaos that we’ve come to expect. Considering how much CG animation overshadows hand-drawn animation in the theatrical world, I will never miss an opportunity to talk about a movie implementing classic animation. It was one of the many highlights in ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ and it is just as effective here. It never felt disingenuous, it always felt they wanted to honour these characters. The transition into their CG versions was done very tastefully, they still looked great (for the most part) and the looney aspect was still mostly intact. If anything, I have to give props to this movie for actually giving every single character a shining moment whereas the first ‘Space Jam’ gave all the attention to Bugs, Daffy and Lola. Here, every single Looney character gets their moment.
All of that being said, this movie definitely had no right being two hours long. The movie’s biggest mistake is ironically the biggest improvement over the first movie. The first movie did not care to explain why or how any of its events happen. Meanwhile, the sequel has actual structure, themes and presents an actual character arc. While the movie does succeed in concluding the arc in an emotionally satisfying manner, it ultimately overshadowed the Looney Tunes characters, which is what we came to see. It’s an especially odd decision given the fact that LeBron James cannot act to save his life. With Michael Jordan, the situation felt different because it felt like they wrote his character specifically for the level Jordan can act. It wasn’t flawless but it worked. Here, they give LeBron an entire character demanding actual emotion and line delivery and it was unintentionally hilarious and tedious at times. At the very least, his voice-acting was fairly decent. While I appreciate the fact that the movie gives us solid character arcs for LeBron and his fake son, the movie’s persistent determination to make it the priority ultimately held the movie back. The first movie treated Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny as equal leads whereas this one clearly favours LeBron over Bugs. The family dynamic isn’t bad by any means, it’s just that for a movie with such bizarre logic, it spends too much time setting up its own justification. It always felt the need to explain whereas the first movie simply was. While it may feel conventional at times, ‘A New Legacy’ definitely turns the looney aspect to an eleven in its ridiculous second half.
To be completely honest, the basketball game itself has always been my least favourite part about the ‘Space Jam’ movies which is pretty hilarious considering it’s the climax of the story. I honestly, genuinely cannot remember most of the game from the first movie. The only thing I do remember is the bizarre long arm win which was definitely a decision. In the sequel, however, the game is much more entertaining and memorable, particularly because every character gets a moment to shine. Daffy being the coach was nothing short of brilliant. Porky Pig rapping and simultaneously roasting the Goon Squad added five years to my lifespan. It was so refreshing to watch a movie and to have it ask you to go with the flow and just get on board with whatever’s happening. It was so fun because it was so ridiculous, it’s what the Looney Tunes are all about. It replicated that humour a ton more than the original movie ever did. This sequel actually understood these characters which is far beyond anything the first movie ever did.
Overall I’d say ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ is just as good if not better than the original ‘Space Jam’. Nostalgia is definitely one hell of an emotion and it’s clearly clouded a ton of people’s judgement. In a time where we could really use some levity, I honestly don’t see the reasoning behind harshly critiquing a movie that’s simply asking you to have a good time. I myself am going through a bit of a ‘Space Jam’ phase as I spent around 35 euros on merch the other day and I honestly couldn’t be more excited. It’s fun, it’s camp! It’s literally a movie about talking cartoon animals playing virtual basketball with an NBA player, it’s ‘Space Jam’!