July 20, 2021
Photo by Warner Brothers Pictures, Warner Animation Group, Proximity Media, and The SpringHill Company
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs in June by the Phoenix Suns in six games. However, this wouldn't be the last we saw from the dynamic duo until October as SpringHill Entertainment and Warner Brothers Pictures had them in a film slated to release in July. That film is a 21st Century reboot of Michael Jordan's Space Jam with LeBron James creating a New Legacy as the star in this version with Davis in a supporting role. The picture was released last Friday in movie theaters and HBO MAX. Here's the plot and my thoughts on the film.
When LeBron and his young son Dom are trapped in a digital space by a rogue A.I.; LeBron must get them home safe by leading Bugs, Lola Bunny, and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to victory over the A.I.’s digitized champions on the court: a powered-up roster of professional basketball stars as you’ve never seen them before. It’s Tunes versus Goons in the highest-stakes challenge of his life, that will redefine LeBron’s bond with his son and shine a light on the power of being yourself.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is a journey of a father and son bond that almost gets broken due to the son desiring video games over basketball, which the father supports while not wanting him to give up on basketball at the same time. Dom Ball(a rip-off of NBA Jam in today's graphics) is a video game the son creates using his PC because of his interest in that particular craft. Malcolm Lee does a marvelous job setting up the initial conflict at the Warner Brothers Studio pitch meeting leading to the abduction of LeBron James and his kid into the Serververse(virtual reality or Warner 3000) by rogue artificial intelligence/computer algorithm Al-G Rhythm. LeBron James enlisting the Looney Tunes in his quest to win the basketball game and his son back from Don Cheadle is a little far-fetched, but this is a kids movie so that's something you have to let slide. The ensuing portions to assemble the team and the trips they take to disparate Warner Brother Franchise Universes are thoroughly enjoyable. This is where the underlying problem of the film enters, Don Cheadle's brainwashing of LeBron's son was done believably, but the manner it is presented is rushed and generic. It's a mere plot device and doesn't capture the animosity Dominic feels towards his father accurately making the picture's conflict look flimsy.
Dominic's video game(Dom Ball) coming to the Serververse is done as realistic as possible, but Don Cheadle transforming him into an NBA Superstar while turning Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and Klay Thompson alongside WNBA superstars Diana Taurasi and Nneka Ogwumike into CGI versions of themselves for the Father vs Son game seemed unrealistic even for a rogue A.I. that can control the entire World Wide Web. The pre-climax is exorbitant hence there is difficulty focusing on what's actually happening. This brings us to the final act aka the climax, which is overstretched just like an actual basketball game. It's paramount to manifest the game in all its beauty, but for non-basketball enthusiasts, it will seem jaded. Al-G Rhythm trapping millions of people inside the Serververse and raising the stakes of the game was very cliché signaling lazy writing. Bugs Bunny producing the sacrificial play with his pass to LeBron was unconvincing and it would've held more weight if Bron was the one producing it with Dom Ball glitch's being fixed by his son during the play. A reel embodiment of Teamwork.
The saving graces of the final act are when LeBron arises out of his ego twice for the evolution of himself and his team. One of the instances LeBron arises out of his ego is when he permits Bugs Bunny(who calls him Cleveland as a quip) to take control of Tune Squad's strategy/dynamics allowing LeBron to just follow instructions rather than be the King of everything. Another instance Bron arises out of his ego is when he verbalizes to his son he wants him to be himself and expresses his remorse for trying to force Dom to be a basketball player as his primary occupation. The message of being yourself under any circumstances and not giving in or taking shortcuts to your goal is a noteworthy one. These segments of the climax hit home remarkably. LeBron dropping off his son at E3 Design Camp is the icing on the cake in this flick with a delightful Looney Tunes plot reversal. Even the post-credits photographic depictions of the Looney Tunes on Planet Earth are blissful.
Cast and Crew
LeBron James in his first starring role in a major motion picture does an excellent job with what source material Director Malcolm Lee and the Story/Screenplay Writers have given him script and dialogue-wise. The inceptive scenes have him looking awkward and out of place, but just like in a basketball game he shows up when it matters most. Don Cheadle is the surprise package of the film. His villainous act as a Rogue A.I./computer algorithm Al-G Rhythm is a complete treat to watch on-screen. The twists that he is provided narratively make his character on par with LeBron James. Cedric Joe displays his acting chops as LeBron's son admirably by subtly conveying his emotions throughout the picture. His acting in the climax where he realizes Cheadle is using him and gravitates back towards his father is extraordinary. LeBron's wife Sonequa Martin-Green(Kamiyah James) uses her couple of lines to motivate LeBron when he is in crisis, but the rest of LeBron's family could've been regarded as set property.
Khris Davis' comic relief in-between serious scenes aids the movie to stay in a lighter tone. LeBron's friend Malik and his other friends sure know how to achieve a laugh. The Looney Tunes do a commendable job in venturing to recreate the magic of the original Space Jam. All of the Looney Tunes are given equal importance and excel in standalone and collaboration scenes. However, there is really nothing new for them to do here with the exception of certain portions that work very effectively.
Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Diana Taurasi, and Nneka Ogwumike on the Goon Squad do a terrific job in the last hour as CGI versions of themselves invoking tension in the Tune Squad in all four quarters of the basketball game. Chronos alias Dame-Time steals the show with his apt timing(quite literally) in crucial scenes. Lillard obtaining a significant role is definitely something LeBron schemed for from Day One of Production. If only Giannis Antetokounmpo or Kawhi Leonard were a part of the new Space Jam. LeBron's banter with The Brow (Anthony Davis) is another highlight as he pokes fun at his teammate for his appearance on several occasions. The other three basketball players have their brief moments, but their characterization is very limited.
Michael Jordan is back, but just for an inspiring speech at Halftime. Michael B. Jordan(the actor, not the basketball player) that is; I took that personally. LeBron's childhood coach also gets an inspiring speech from Wood Harris. It's magnificently delivered by Harris. Ernie Johnson Jr. and Lil Rel Howery as commentators of the game are a Midas Touch in the climax as both of them manufacture a brilliant performance. Lil Rel is a mixture of Shaq and Kenny on the mic while Ernie plays his usual self effortlessly. Sarah Silverman, Steven Yeun, Slink Johnson, Xosha Roquemore, Draymond Green, Sue Bird, and A'ja Wilson make a blink and you'll miss it appearance that adds no concrete value to the story. This was a big misfire and decent roles should've been rewarded to these cast members. The animated cameos by all the properties and characters owned by the Warner Brothers Studio were astounding to view in various stages of New Legacy notably in the climax. Salvatore Totino's cinematography was exceptional and the animation by Warner Animation Group, Proximity Media, and the SpringHill Company captivated me persistently for the duration of 115 minutes.
If you can forgive certain logical loopholes and go into Space Jam: A New Legacy just expecting a humorous and absurd film then this one is for you!