While most generations have no love whatsoever for the treasure that is Space Jam, I grew up in the generation that watched it religiously. While it is a film intent on promoting Michael Jordan's fame while probably helping Warner Bros. put Looney Tunes back on the map, kids saw it as a film that encapsulated what there is to love about Looney Tunes and encouraged them to love basketball. Admittedly, it's not a good movie, but it had a perfect combination of so bad but so good 90's charm with Looney Tunes humor. But while it worked for one generation, can it work for another?
Space Jam: A New Legacy stars the most current NBA superstar LeBron James, who plays himself in the movie. We are introduced to him having a tough time relating to his fictional son Dom, who wants to make video games over becoming a basketball star like his dad. But when a rough A.I. (Don Cheadle) kidnaps them and challenges LeBron to a basketball game, LeBron gets help from the Looney Tunes in order to save his son and learn how to reconnect with him.
Similar to how the first Space Jam
got no critical praise, this sequel is certainly not going to get its praise either. I understand that, as it's kind of a messy movie. But while critics and some adults may see its fair share of issues, kids certainly won't see its flaws, and even if they did, it would roll off their shoulders. It's not a film for adults, and it's not really a film for those looking for nostalgia, such as myself. But for this next generation of kids, I think this works enough to be a fun watch, but maybe won't become a film that identifies with their childhood down the road.
I think what will help the next young generation enjoy this movie is that it has a mixture of cartoons and video game culture that kids today identify with. I could be out of touch in terms of if the gaming aspects are cringy or not, but it didn't appear that way to me. It probably was the right move to include this aspect, because as much as this movie is trying to make basketball fun for kids, they probably are way more into video games currently.
For me, I got my dose of nostalgia thanks to the Looney Tunes. Once the Tunes get involved in the story, the movie woke me up from boredom and kept me from taking my eyes off the screen for the remainder of its ridiculous 2-hour runtime. All of the main Tunes get some clever, funny jokes, especially from Bugs Bunny. I don't know if kids love Looney Tunes now, but it's possible that this could be what sparks their love for them, just like what the original did back in the '90s.
The Looney tunes IP is front and center, but the whole Warner Bros. library is utilized in the background. From DC to The Matrix to Game Of Thrones, this Space Jam is unabashedly proud to showcase what Warner Bros. has to offer for all audiences. In my eyes, this came across as rather offputting, especially when I see LeBron and Bugs playing basketball while Pennywise the Clown and Fred Flintstone are watching them play. It was one thing for Space Jam to be a movie with the sole purpose to promote one IP, but it's another to do that for a company's library of content.
The one time it made sense was including DC characters, and that's only because superheroes are the popular thing right now. Kids probably would bring out clubs and pitchforks if Bugs and LeBron didn't have an encounter with Superman. This could be the sign that I'm old if I'm thinking this comes across as gross, obvious propaganda, rather than being a cool thing to witness and shrug off. I'm sure its "purpose" was for the studio to be self-aware of its own doing, but since it's clear that most corporations want a handful of unrelated IP to be shoved into their movies for the sake of promotion, it doesn't come across as clever.
I know there are exceptions to athletes becoming good actors, but usually, it doesn't come across well. This applies to LeBron James, although, I understand why he wasn't very good. He has never been a trained actor, so having to act on sound stages with green screens and tennis balls to represent animated rabbits and ducks isn't exactly easy to do. While kids won't care about the acting from him, I'm not sure if they're going to get excited about rewatching this movie because of him.
Let's be honest, Michael Jordan wasn't exactly a thespian himself. But for myself and many others, it was unbeknownst to us. We enjoyed watching Jordan in the movie for the fact that the biggest star in the world was reacting to Bugs Bunny's antics. But, as much of a megastar as LeBron is in today's game, I don't think this young generation is clamoring to see him the same way 90's kids did with Jordan. Today's age of superstardom and fame is not the same as it was in the '90s, and LeBron just isn't as universally loved as Jordan was. Jordan's fame was able to get away with bad acting, but I don't think the same applies with LeBron.
I understand that I probably hold Space Jam in too high of regards, but I do understand the type of movie it always was, especially as I've grown up with it over the years. But as it pains me to admit it, I am older, and I may be out of touch in terms of if a Space Jam movie works today. Maybe in the eyes of children, it does, but not to the degree that it did back in the '90s. As for adults, it has its fair share of fun hijinks thanks to the Looney Tunes, but outside of that, it's a blatant promotion tool for a movie studio to the nth degree.