Movie Review: Space Jam: A New Legacy

As a little kid, I loved Bugs Bunny cartoons. And I even agree with Dana Carvey in Wayne’sWorld when he said Bugs looked sexy when he was dressed as a woman. I appreciated Bugs even more as an adult, when I might catch one on TV while going through the channels, and realize they were actually playing Rossini’s Barber of Seville opera, which as a kid, I obviously wasn’t familiar with. Stuff for adults and children.

I’ve been playing basketball almost my entire life, and am obsessed with it. The original Space Jam came out when I was 27. At that time, I was still more of a Magic Johnson fan than Michael Jordan, and I certainly wasn’t into cartoons. Even the fact that they got comedic legend Bill Murray in it, wasn’t enough to get me to ever watch it.

I figured having not seen the original wasn’t necessary for reviewing this; although I understand there were easter eggs, which obviously I didn’t catch. The only one I got (which no kids will catch), was Yosemite Sam at Rick’s Cafe (Casablanca). 

What’s odd about this movie is that it felt like one big product placement for Warner Brothers cartoon characters. 

Early on in the movie when LeBron James is lecturing his kids, you realize he may be the best basketball player of all time (sorry Jordan fans), but he’s not a very good actor (although he did okay in his few scenes in Trainwreck).

Don Cheadle is one of my Top 10 favorite actors, so it was fun to see him playing a computer program called Al G. Rhythm (algorithm, get it?). He seems to be having fun as the bad guy that wants his villains to play LeBron and the cartoon characters in a game of basketball, which feels more like an unfun video game.

The story is bookended by something I found rather welcome. LeBron pushing one of his kids to play basketball when he’d rather be a videogame designer. As someone who has coached youth basketball and had to deal with pushy parents (and I even once wrote a cover story for the Reader about parents at youth sports events), this was a pleasant surprise. LeBron even gets lectured by his wife (Sonequa Martin-Green) about their son needing a dad, not a coach (although I couldn’t figure out why as they were getting into bed, LeBron still had his do-rag on!).

Anyway, Al sucks LeBron and his son Dom (Cedric Joe) into the server of the computer, and forces them to play a virtual basketball game. When the big game takes place, people all over the world get sucked in from their computers to be fans in the stands (it was disappointing that Lil Rel Howery, who is usually hysterical, didn’t have any funny jokes as the announcer). 

Perhaps the only joke that worked, involved an incredible cameo by Michael Jordan.

As a kid growing up and watching basketball, my mom would be exasperated as she’d ask, “How much more of this game is on?” I’d say “There are only 4 minutes in the 4th quarter,” to which she’d say “That means another hour.” (Now I listen to my wife say similar things). I actually could feel their pain, as I watched this basketball game. It was so long and so, so boring. I actually fell asleep during 15 minutes of it (I also blame the comfortable reclining seats some theatres have now).

As a kid, I could watch silly basketball games and have fun with it (I’m thinking of various Harlem Globetrotters shows or The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, if any old-timers remember that Julius Erving/Jonathan Winters powerhouse of goofiness). But I’m not sure even kids will enjoy watching this basketball game. It’s so...bizarre and nonsensical. 

I did like that Kris Bowers did the music (he was very instrumental in the beautiful stuff we saw and heard in Green Book). It was nice seeing Sue Bird get some love. And, the Al G. Rhythm character reminded me of a wacky character the San Diego Clippers had when I was a kid watching them -- World B. Free (the player formerly known as Lloyd Bernard Free). 

This movie is only for kids 5 to 7 years old, no one else.

1 ½ stars out of 5.

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