Space Jam: A New Legacy is not as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes score would indicate. In fact, if you turn your brain off and don't allow the opinions of others to shape your own, you might have fun. I did.
The film needs to be taken at face value. It’s made for kids - not irrationally angry Twitter eggs who hold the original Space Jam in the same regard as The Godfather. It’s LeBron and the Looney Tunes competing in a fully-CG basketball game controlled by Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), a disgruntled algorithm that feeds Warner Bros. executive Sarah Silverman film ideas. Cheadle shines in this - he has a lot of fun with the role, and it translates.
A New Legacy understands its audience. It’s chock-full of slapstick humor, colorful (and near-constant) visual effects, and LeBron James, who proves to be a capable line-deliverer as the film’s lead. There are plenty of callbacks to the Michael Jordan-starring original and multiple shots at LeBron, which many will certainly enjoy (switching teams, can’t win on his own, GOAT debate, etc.).
The film’s pinnacle, a showdown between the Tune Squad and Goon Squad, places a twist on the basketball we’re used to seeing LeBron dominate night-in and night-out. As he and Bugs Bunny lead their team against CGI-versions of Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Diana Taurasi, and Nneka Ogwumike, the game can become an over-long, cluttered hodgepodge of visual effects and one-liners. It does, however, allow for LeBron to have his “dramatic” moment in the film and features some entertaining moves that serve as an ode to NBA Jam. At least that’s how I took it.
Critics have written about A New Legacy as if they were shoved into a theater and forced to watch LiveLeak videos for hours on end. Their main gripe with the film appears to be the fact that it’s essentially a two-hour Warner Bros. commercial - which is fair. It most definitely is, and there are multiple eye-roll-inducing product placements. When LeBron crash-lands in Tune Town, he leaves behind a Nike swoosh-shaped hole in the ground.
Space Jam: A New Legacy isn’t the “IP has gone too far” hill that people should die on - if anything, the film feels like a product of IP-obsessed studios who know you’ll keep paying for familiar things you already know you enjoy.
Is it the best film of 2021? Of course not. Is it better than the original? That’s for you to decide. I don’t know the last time I watched it - probably a decade ago.