READY PLAYER SPACE JAM….errrr, I mean CYBERSPACE JAM…errr, I mean SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY is going to do to your kids in 2021, exactly what the original did to you as a child in 1996. They will see one of the most legendary sports players of all time going toe to toe with their favorite Looney Tunes characters to play the ultimate game of basketball with sight gags and cartoonish violence aplenty. They will instantly develop memberberries and claim that this film was their childhood in a bottle. But then in 25 years, that will be the year…2046? FUCK. In 2046, they will realize the movie doesn’t hold up, at all. And they will start to question not only their childhood sanity, but their current one.
Just to set things up, I watched the original Space Jam last week in preparation for today. I thought I remembered 1996 just like it was yesterday: seeing this film in the theater, in awe of how Michael Jordan reacted to cartoon drawings, loving all the zany antics & hilarity. Not knowing that Bill Murray’s 5 minute cameo would be what I would ultimately only remember vividly about the film. Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages…SPACE JAM DOES NOT HOLD UP. It has a bittersweet beginning with Michael Jordan and his father…it was emotional and sweet then in 1996 but it is now a bit bitter knowing that Jordan’s father was tragically murdered three years prior (our parents rightfully kept this sad shit from us when we were young).
But after that well done little opening, the film is all over the place. It’s not a terrible film by any means. When the film gets to Toon Town and the ‘ultimate game’, the entertainment ramps up to a watchable little romp. The new character of Lola Bunny was too cool for school and didn’t take any shit from bugs. The villain MonStars had a actual character arc. It pokes a little fun at Jordan wanting to play baseball. It has some other memorable scenes here and there (mainly Bill Murray). But…
- Michael Jordan can’t act his way out of a paper bag. He shows a little charm in some scenes but ultimately he looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, having a hard time interacting with what amounts to a green screen and tennis balls.
- The opening credits shamelessly put Jordan on a pedestal (small nitpick but I started rolling my eyes as a 35 year old adult when I re-watched it last week)
- There isn’t that much character development with anybody: Jordan realizes…teamwork? And maybe not to play baseball? The Tunes learn to…believe in themselves? I guess? Even though they believe in themselves in the old cartoons that they previously did?
- When compared to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which came out 8 years earlier, the animation and live action isn’t very impressive, especially on the court at the final game.
- Any scene with Newman from Seinfeld is unfunny, annoying, and you just want to punch him in the face.
- It needed more Danny DeVito voice work. And it needed more Looney Tunes focus & action (but is a masterpiece of focus when compared to this sequel)
I’m sure there is more but I’m trying to do a review of the sequel, so let’s get into it. To be fair, let’s just list the few positives this film has:
- Don Cheadle
- The animation and live action blending here looks decent and uses modern technology to its fullest advantage.
- A Michael Jordan cameo that subverted expectations made me chuckle.
- A Rick and Morty 10 second cameo elicited the biggest laugh of the whole movie for me (I’m a huge fan)
- The film does have a couple of set ups and pay offs that worked, specifically dealing with an initial glitch in the son’s game he is designing at the beginning of the film.
- A couple of Looney Tunes sight gags here and there made me chuckle (one with the big red hairy Looney Tunes character and one with Wild E. Coyote made me laugh out loud).
- Don Cheadle
And that’s about it. I listed Don Cheadle twice because he looks like the only human participant in this picture that looks like they want to be there. He hams it up in every single frame he’s in and he looks like he’s having a grand old time. If he’s not, someone please give him a supporting Oscar nomination, because he could’ve fooled me. He’s also the only actor in the film that looks like an absolute pro talking to what is essentially a green screen and tennis balls.
Now, let’s list off the many, MANY negatives this film has:
- This movie is basically a giant Warner Bros. IP ploy. It just bukake’s everything under the WB logo and sun with every pop culture movie and tv character/property their banner owns. They show up EVERYWHERE. AND IT GETS VERY DISTRACTING. The attention is supposed to be on ‘the big game’, full of life and death stakes, but instead, character’s from The Mask, IT, Game of Thrones, Batman & Robin, Hanna Barbera, etc, etc, etc, show up and are clearly visible in the background that I ended up pointing them out to myself so much that I had to rewind the movie on HBO Max and make myself focus on what was happening on the court. How bad does it get? EVEN FUCKING RICK AND MORTY SHOW UP IN THIS FILM! At least the original film only had one pop culture reference that I didn’t get at the time, and that was to what is now my favorite movie of all time: Pulp Fiction. If you weren’t a fan of Ready Player One, the book and/or movie, because of the constant callbacks to other properties, prepare to REALLY, REALLY loathe this film.
- That being said, most of the movie relies on the Looney Tunes incorporating themselves into famous scenes and situations from Warner Bros. movies and tv shows like 8 Mile (the rap battle here is so fucking stupid), The Matrix, Casablanca, FUCKING MAD MAX FURY ROAD, the hard R rated film from George Miller, The Cartoon DC Universe etc. etc. etc. Not a spec of originality comes from the Tunes until the big game and even that was drowned out by all the sploodging of WB IP all over my fucking face.
- LeBron might have been one of the standouts of the Amy Schumer film Trainwreck, but here, he’s a literal trainwreck. He can’t act his way out of a smaller paper bag than Michael Jordan’s, and he doesn’t really seem like he wanted to be doing this. It screams paycheck. I know Michael Jordan can’t act but some charm at least seeped through in the original that showed he wanted to be in a movie that put him up on a pedestal. LeBron seems like he could care less as long as more money shows up in his hand at the end of it all.
- The opening credits, yet fucking again, puts LeBron up on a pedestal. I rolled my eyes twice as much as I did in the original Michael Jordan pedestal opening credits.
- There is literally no fucking character development here. What little there is, is just, “I need to pay attention to my son more, a son who doesn’t really want to play basketball. I also need to let him do his dream which is designing video games and not be such a hard ass.” And even that little message is muddled with all the Ready Player One bullshit that was going on around it.
- At least the MonStars in the original movie had an arc. They each had distinct personalities and realized they were being controlled by cartoon Danny DeVito too much and needed to branch out as toons on their own. Here the ‘Goon Squad villians’ have no story, no arc, they just show up for the final game with their God like special powers and say a few quips. That’s it. The villains in this, other than Don Cheadle, are completely ignored. And I understand that the villain players are basically just made up on the spot videogame entities created by LeBron James’ fictional son, but come on, some more humanity and back story go a long way. One of the few charms of the original film is that the MonStars steal the talent of real NBA players. And while the NBA players go on stupid hospital/therapy antics when they lose their talent in that movie, at least that was something. Here, it’s completely nothing.
- I like Zendaya as a person, actress, and celebrity but her voice does not match the character of Lola Bunny at all here. And it makes me enraged to think that the original voice actress for her (the one that voiced Lola in 1996) had recorded all of the dialogue as this film was being made, only to be dumped post production last minute and replaced by an A-List celebrity. For shame, Warner Bros. Let Zendaya do her Spider-Man and Euphoria thing and have ACTUAL VOICE TALENT VOICE YOUR FUCKING CARTOON CHARACTERS. You didn’t learn your lesson with last year’s SCOOB! and you certainly didn’t learn it here. They don’t need to be well known, they just need to be right for the part. Zendaya is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the right voice for the right character.
- Why the fuck is this movie even called Space Jam? At least the first movie they fucking played in FUCKING SPACE against SPACE ALIENS!!! Is it still called Space Jam because it’s supposed to be how much God damn server space that Warner Bros. has on all their IP properties? Why didn’t they just call it CYBERSPACE JAM?!? Either way, fuck that, I’d rather watch blood in my stool.
- Our lovable Looney Tunes are mostly in the background in this movie, in the deep deep shadow of Lebron James’ ego. In the original movie, all the main characters had a scene or two to shine. Not here. They are all amusing at times background screensavers as Lebron James doesn’t act right in front of our eyeballs.
- As one review on twitter put it: “Some of the reviews of SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY are missing the point. This movie wasn’t made for grown ups, it was made for kids. And if there’s one thing that kids today love, it’s references to Casablanca and A Clockwork Orange.” The reason why I see that a lot of kids might not like this film is the references that will go way over their head like the one above. I understand you can’t put in anything that references Disney but surely you could mention something more updated in these times for the younger crowd…
- Ummm…the movie gets very close to saying some naughty words that wouldn’t really fit the rating of this movie. Terms like “son of a glitch” is uttered (when uttered by Daffy Duck I honestly thought he said bitch for two seconds there). And there is one part where Don Cheadle is bleeped as he curses but I could almost clearly read his lips…And this was supposed to be a kids movie?
- Speaking of MonStars, they have a 2 second cameo that ruins their character development from the first movie, as they sigh and look depressed when the villains start to lose.
- LeBron James’ heartfelt climax speech to his son about his acceptance of his kid wanting to do other things other than basketball and also realizing he’s a shitty father is so cringe worthy it is sure to earn him a Razzie Nomination by the end of the year.
- There’s a “death”, “sacrifice”, what have you, that one of the main Looney Tunes characters make in order to win the big basketball game. Basically they risk deletion from the WB Server’s for good. At the beginning of the movie, a son does a specific basketball move with one of his players he created in the videogame he is making, and that move causes the game to crash and the character gets deleted. That is a set up for a pay off at the end of the movie to have a different character do that same move to win the game, but then get deleted. They set it up like LeBron James is going to sacrifice himself, but I knew one of the toons were going to take over and do it and I was seriously hoping it was going to be Pepe Le Pew. You didn’t see him the whole movie and then for him to just pop in the middle of the game would’ve been BOLD. That would’ve been a FUCKING BRILLIANT commentary on cancel culture and a smart and unique way to get rid of that character for good. But no, it’s another main toon. And that “death”, that “sacrifice” is completely null and void not 5 minutes later. You have this emotional scene with a character sacrificing sacrificing him/herself for his/her family (no, it’s not Dominic Toretto) and then act like it is permanent, only for the character to show up two scenes later and just shrug it off spouting, “I’m a cartoon, there’s no getting rid of me!” PATHETIC.
This review has gotten way too long, so let me end it with the following: If you are just a casual moviegoer that doesn’t get bothered by petty things, maybe one with a couple of young children to watch this with, or if you are still a no shame fan of the original, or if you suck down memberberries like Daniel Day Lewis does a hypothetical milkshake in There Will Be Blood, you might find some enjoyment out of Space Jam: A New Legacy.
But if you hated the constant memberberries ejaculating on your face in Ready Player One (novel or movie), if you hate LeBron James, if you didn’t care for the original film back in 1996 and/or don’t care for it present day when you finally grew a brain and learned better, if you are wanting just a bunch of fun and entertaining Looney Tunes antics like you’ve been getting with the charming HBO Max television reboot that has two seasons thus far on the streaming service (please watch that instead)…then you are going to want to avoid this like the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Grades for Both Films:
Space Jam – A New Legacy: 3 out of 10
Space Jam: 9 out of 10 (in 1996), 6 out of 10 (on a re watch in 2021)