Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)



“You might not be able to get all those top guys for the team. This ain’t the Miami Heat, ya know?”“You might not be able to get all those top guys for the team. This ain’t the Miami Heat, ya know?”

“You might not be able to get all those top guys for the team. This ain’t the Miami Heat, ya know?”


As a kid of the 90’s, young enough to be the target market for the first Space Jam, the word I would describe my relationship to that film would be obsession. I believe I had it playing 3 times a week, don’t quote me on that. After all, these films are made and marketed toward a younger demographic. That being said, the first Space Jam was everywhere you looked. Who didn’t idolize Michael Jordan, His Airness, if you’d happen to be a fan of sports or just about any brand that associated with him. He’s the g.o.a.t for a reason. Add the pairing of the Looney Tunes and anyone born the earliest of 1985 and the film markets itself. Either you’re there for MJ and the Talent of the supporting cast or for the Looney Tunes hijinks, which was a mix of both.

Fast forward 15 years and current “King” of basketball is taking a stab at acting in his own Space Jam. The only “acting” MJ had really done was McDonald’s commercials or just about any high-profile sports brand. Lebron James, who plays himself, has at least been in movies before, as a supporting role in Trainwreck. At least in that movie, James had other actors to act off of with dialogue and timing, even facial expressions. In Space Jam: A New Legacy, James is acting with just a green screen and most likely a tennis ball – a huge difference and its noticeable how different it is. 

Waiting more than a decade to release a sequel is never a good idea. Questions of all sorts pop up as a result but for a new generation it makes sense. During production there would be a new article almost every day about which NBA superstar declined to be in this movie alongside James. James is playing at the highest level in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers (his third franchise). Coming off a Lakers championship last year during the global pandemic, you can’t go anywhere without seeing King James.


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Space Jam: A New Legacy like its predecessor, incorporates Lebron’s career into the film – where he came from to how he got to this point in time is seen in the opening credits. From getting drafted to “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” (lord, I remember watching that Trainwreck live) Warner wants to keep opening the wound that is the divisive g.o.a.t’s career. When James turns down a role to be a mega star movie actor at Warner Bro’s studio, a ploy by Al G Rhythm (Don Cheadle) (I’ll let that sink in), Al G decides to kidnap Lebron and his son Dom (Cedric Joe), a fictionalized version of his youngest son Bryce James, and transport them into the server-verse. 

There’re thin plots and then there’s this. Al G is setting up this basketball game between Dom and Lebron because Lebron turned down a movie role? Don’t go into this film and expect top tier academy writing, or any element for that matter. As a father, Lebron pushes his kids toward greatness, just like him. No distractions, all discipline. His eldest, Darius (Ceyair J. Wright), fictionalized version of “Bronny” James understands it but Dom has different dreams and aspirations that aren’t involving a round orange ball that gets shot through a hoop for 2 or 3 points. 

Was there any particular reason for not using Lebron’s actual kids in the film? More out of curiosity than criticism. Michael’s kids were in the first Space Jam. That’s not to take away from the young actors here – they did the best with what was given to them.  

It took a team of writers, 6 to be exact to write Space Jam: A New Legacy. The term too many cooks in the kitchen comes to mind here as that’s exactly how this film plays out over the 115-minute runtime. Warner being Warner, the decision was made, by someone, to throw every single IP Warner owns into this film in some fashion. Space Jam: A New Legacy is one long commercial – forcing consumerism and nostalgia to drive the interest of this movie. From Mad Max to the Matrix and Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, every character ever created and owned by Warner is invited. Its IP vomit that adds nothing to the actual bones of the film. 

There’s even a line of dialogue of James being self-aware – like the rest of the references it doesn’t land the way its intended. 

Many compare Space Jam: A New Legacy to a similar Warner production Ready Player One as an amalgamation of nostalgia to drive sales and butts in seats. The difference, at least to me, Ready Player One’s story surrounded the nostalgia and consumerism and was more of a commentary on how it controls every facet of our daily lives, at least that’s how the novel is. The film version, I can agree, It’s Warner throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us and expecting a positive reaction. 


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Even the original Monstars make an appearance. Who doesn’t want to see Iron Giant, King Kong, Danny Devito’s Penguin and some Droogs court-side at a basketball game? Like these characters even care for sports!

As a sports fan, the only part of this sequel I truly appreciated is the homage paid to an iconic photo of Lebron dunking a ball while former teammate Dwayne Wade throws his arms out and looks to the camera. Here it’s James and Lola Bunny (voiced by Zendaya) reenacting. 

Don’t even get me started on The Notorious P.I.G. scene.

A lot of A New Legacy’s choices are questionable here. The decision to convert the pleasing on the eyes 2D animation is upgraded to 3D with real looking fur that moves without any of the toons moving a muscle. The controversial removal of Pepe Le Pew while still including Speedy Gonzalez as a stereotype, the flashing colors and sounds that are panic inducing, blinding nonsense, and the tease of Michael Jordan making a cameo when it’s just Michael B. Jordan, the actor, who has a deal with Warner.

What Space Jam does right at least, for the most part is teaching a younger generation to follow their passion and dreams despite their parents’ interference. No one including their own kids should have that pressure thrust upon them for greatness that MJ or Lebron achieved, it’s not feasible and it’s a harsh lesson Lebron learns. The interactions between Dom and Lebron add some nuance here but beyond that relationship there is zero chemistry to be found.

When the Toons are given the opportunity to be Looney, the film is easily enjoyable as a 30 something, that bit of nostalgia works for this film but doesn’t last long.

Sure, criticizing a movie like A New Legacy is easy, pointing out the many flaws but again, its not marketed toward a 30 something year old, its geared toward a younger generation where the flashes of rainbow-colored lighting effects and the frenzy of noise will be cheered for while being able to be a distraction for 2 hours. Space Jam: A New Legacy lacks the secret stuff that made the first film so well beloved.

Space Jam: A New Legacy is written by Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terence Nance, Jesse Gordan & Celeste Ballard, directed by Malcolm D. Lee is Rated PG and has a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. Space Jam: A New Legacy was released on July 16, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 2 hours. Space Jam: A New Legacy can be seen currently in theaters and streamed on HBO Max.  .5 out of 5.


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