LeBron James plays in Warner Bros. ‘ “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
LeBron James may be the king of the basketball court, but that title won’t roll out to the box office. At least not when it comes to “Space Jam: A New Legacy”.
Warner Bros.’s attempt to regain its nostalgic love for “Space Jam,” directed by Michael Jordan in 1996, is a giant balloon in the eyes of its critics. The 2021 film, which debuts in theaters and on HBO Max Friday, currently has a “Rotten” score of 37% on Rotten Tomatoes from 78 reviews.
While its predecessor also failed critics 25 years ago – it has a 44% “Rotten” score out of 80 reviews – it has become a popular sports comedy, especially with younger viewers.
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” may not have the same appreciation.
“It fills a two-hour void in the schedule that makes parents happy, and it swings the brand of what makes shareholders happy,” wrote Bilge Ebiri in his review of the film for Vulture. “Whether it could have been a good film would not have occurred to anyone.”
James-directed “A New Legacy” follows a formula similar to the 1996 film – the famous basketball champion gets sucked into the world of Looney Tunes and has to play a high-stakes hoop game.
In this iteration, James, who plays a fictional version of himself, is at odds with his youngest son Dom (Cedric Joe), who dreams of becoming a video game developer instead of a basketball star. When visiting Warner Bros. ‘ Plenty to see is a new system called Warner 3000, a new technology that James can copy and paste into various movies and TV shows, Dom is kidnapped by an evil AI called Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle).
To save his son, James must team up with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the rest of the legendary Tune Squad to win a basketball game against the digitized champions of AI-G.
The crazy meta-humor that made “Space Jam” so lovable is lost in this new edition, say critics. Instead, it is being replaced with “shameless” plugs to give Warner Bros. a massive vault of intellectual property.
“Space Jam: A New Legacy is as shameful a display of product placement as one would wish,” wrote James Marsh in his review for the South China Morning Post.
Here’s what critics had to say about Space Jam: A New Legacy before its debut on Friday:
Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly
“Here’s the basketball thing: It’s awesome. Here’s the Space Jam: A New Legacy thing: It’s not,” wrote Mary Sollosi in her review of Space Jam: A New Legacy for Entertainment Weekly.
“You will be amazed at how little the game of basketball resembles a real sport and how difficult it is to persevere,” she added.
Sollosi speculates that this new movie exists for only two reasons: for Warner Bros., to expand its huge collection of intellectual property and build James’ legacy.
“The studio ostentatiously flips through its library of real estate throughout the film, most notably a series of short clips in which James collects tunes that have moved to ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Austin Powers’ and, most disturbingly, ‘Casablanca’. ” wrote. “There is not much to be gleaned from these scenes, not even the pleasure of nostalgia; neither in terms of content nor content is there any meaningful reference to these films.”
And then there is James, who is regularly referred to as “King” in the film.
“The man’s already formidable stature just increases when he stands on this huge piece of film that is now piled up with its many other accomplishments,” wrote Sollosi. “But only as a movie that people can really see? Algorithmically, it’s not a slam dunk.”
Read the full review from Entertainment Weekly.
Wile E. Coyote appears in Warner Bros. “Space Jam: A New Legacy”.
Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” wrote Richard Roeper in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times. “I also hope never to see anything like this again, and I wish I couldn’t see what I saw.”
Roeper was also critical of Warner Bros. ‘ excessive use of its intellectual property within the film. There is a moment at the beginning of the film when James is shown the Warner 3000, which inserted him into a Harry Potter Quidditch game where the sports star is reluctant.
“LeBron says it’s a terrible idea, one of the worst ideas he’s ever heard, and he disapproves of the pitch – and then the movie goes down exactly the same path after admitting it’s a terrible concept” wrote Roeper.
The film teems with allusions to the studio’s archives, including “The Wizard of Oz”, “Mad Max” and “Game of Thrones”.
“When Al-G Rhythm (um, that name) takes Dom by pretending to be his friend and promoting his dreams, LeBron and Bugs Bunny bring the Looney Tunes gang together, everyone in – you guessed it – were recorded. Warner Bros. properties, e.g. B. Daffy Duck in a Superman adventure in Metropolis, Yosemite Sam in Rick’s Cafe from ‘Casablanca’, Lola Bunny is about to take the speed and endurance test to become an Amazon a la ‘Wonder Woman’, “explains Roeper.
“Aside from a few clever one-liners and visual gags, it’s more exhausting than amusing,” he said.
Read the full Chicago Sun-Times review.
LeBron James teams up with Bugs Bunny Warner Bros. ‘ “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
AA Dowd, AV Club
For a Looney Tunes movie, Space Jam: A New Legacy keeps its animated tune squad by the side for much of the movie.
The film “takes almost all wrong turns, all of which lead to a glittering CGI junk pile of cameos, pat-life lessons, and stale internet buzzwords,” wrote AA Dowd in his review for AV Club. “The first misstep: leaving Bugs, Daffy and the rest of the gang on the bench for as long as it takes the audience to see three and a half ‘Merrie Melodies’.”
The tunes are mostly secondary and tertiary players locked away until one of them is needed to shout a hilarious one-liner or fall prey to a well-placed anvil. Towards the end of the film, the tunes receive a makeover in which their traditional 2D animation is exchanged for a 3D plush doll look.
James, who shone as Bill Hader’s best friend on Trainwreck in 2015, was “as flat and stiff as a backboard,” said Dowd. The actor-turned basketball champ spends most of the film interacting with animated characters, a difficult task for even the most seasoned Hollywood stars.
Read the full review from AV Club.
The Tune Squad by Warner Bros. ‘ “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
Germain Lussier, Gizmodo
“As someone who grew up on ‘Space Jam’, all I wanted was to like ‘A New Legacy’,” wrote Germain Lussier in his review of the film for Gizmodo.
“I remember ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ and Air Jordans vividly, and I love watching basketball and sci-fi movies, so on paper this movie is for me,” he said. “The problem is that the new film is so dense and manic, with an enormously uneven tone, that the end product feels like white noise.”
Like other critics, Lussier cited the climax of the random basketball game – which he thought was a tediously long sequence – and the abundance of random Warner Bros. IPs as disadvantages for the film.
“The team behind Space Jam: A New Legacy did the impossible,” he said. “They took two of the most dynamic and fun things on the planet and made them boring. One of them is LeBron James, a legendary basketball champion of the generation, and the other is the Looney Tunes, a timeless, hilarious, adaptable, and unforgettable Characters.
“Each one is amazing on their own. When you put them together, it’s apparently anything but,” he wrote.
Read the full review from Gizmodo.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.