Because Space Jam was so closely tied to Michael Jordan’s larger-than-life sports persona, it was hard to imagine a sequel ever taking off without him. Yet, here it is, with Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring LeBron James alongside an impossibly large cast of Warner Bros characters that includes plenty of Looney Tunes.
There is no greater sports personality active in basketball today than LeBron, so the choice to approach him about a new Space Jam makes sense. He plays himself, though the family that surrounds him is fictional – although his family life is a core plot element the roles of his wife and children are portrayed by actors. Chief among these is Cedric Joe, who plays LeBron’s son Dom. Dom plays basketball with his siblings and dad, but his real passion is videogames – so much so that he’s designing one all by himself.
When LeBron and Dom go into a corporate meeting and turn down a digitization scheme dreamt up by Don Cheadle’s AI character Al G. Rhythm that would allow him to appear in movies and other media, things take a turn. LeBron points out that acting and sports don’t go together, but Al G. Rhythm doesn’t take kindly to rejection and sucks both of them into the “serververse” that he manages, which is full of all kinds of Warner Bros properties.
As you’d expect, an offer quickly arrives that allows LeBron to regain the freedom of himself and his son Dom, but he’ll have to beat Al G. Rhythm in a basketball game and he sends LeBron down to where the Looney Tunes live – only to find that Bugs Bunny is the only one left. What follows is a plot that has them hunting down the other Tunes in search of players, while Don Cheadle wows Dom into playing for his team instead – ultimately culminating in a Father vs Son matchup.
A New Legacy is keen to point out that Warner Bros owns a lot of other properties by having LeBron look for King Kong and the Iron Giant as players, while also visiting The Matrix, Superman, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and even Warner’s black and white era. There are plenty of Easter eggs that are more subtle than that, but those are some of the very obvious ones, and for the first part of the movie it feels more like a Warner showcase than a Looney Tunes movie.
Once we get to the big game, this gets cranked up to 1,000, as the crowd is comprised mostly of characters from every Warner IP you can imagine. The Mask? There. Gremlins? Accounted for. Pennywise the clown and a few agents from The Matrix? Sure, why not. Even the Danny DeVito version of The Penguin waddles into view at some point.
It feels like a bit of a mess with all of this stuff put together in one scene, but longtime movie fans will certainly get a kick out of seeing all these familiar and obscure references. The biggest issue, however, is that most of these will be completely lost on the younger crowd, which is a shame in a family film. The best reference, however, is one to the original film, where Sylvester claims to have found Michael Jordan to help them out. If you’ve seen the original (which we recently reviewed in 4K), that scene is a highlight.
The rules of the final game have been modified to be a mixture of videogame and basketball, which should appeal to the younger gaming crowd, but ultimately what you’re left with is a plot that makes little sense beyond the heartwarming core of family values. Maybe that’s okay though – the cast seems to be having fun with it and there certainly is something in there for everyone, even if the end result is more of Warner Bros. hall of fame than a classic Looney Tunes adventure. It’s certainly flawed in many ways, but the fun factor makes up for a lot.