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1996’s Space Jam is beloved of people Mike’s age throughout the Western hemisphere, despite basketball’s limited reach beyond North America – it was a Looney Tunes film, full of imagination and laughs, and is today a nostalgic linchpin for millennials. And because millennials now make films, it’s back, twenty years on, with Space Jam: A New Legacy, featuring LeBron James in Michael Jordan’s central role as the basketball star who joins forces with the Looney Tunes to defeat a team of superpowered villains.
But the wit and tone of the 1996 original is nowhere to be found here, beyond those unacceptably brief moments in which Bugs Bunny and co. get to shine. There’s a heavy focus on family, a theme that’s come up more than a few times on recent podcasts and never feels intelligently explored, with LeBron’s son held hostage in scenes that are supposed to heighten the sense of threat but in fact just grind any sense of entertainment to dust. But even that isn’t the film’s biggest problem – it’s the corporate project of it all.
Now, that a big-budget studio property has a corporate project to it is no surprise, but the extent of A New Legacy‘s is shocking. As LeBron and his son are sucked into Warner Bros.’ computers, the studio’s back catalogue becomes their universe, quite literally. The Looney Tunes have a planet. Harry Potter has a planet. Game of Thrones has a planet. Even Casablanca has a planet. And throughout, clips from old films are invaded by the Looney Tunes, references pop up constantly, and characters from countless properties pepper the crowd at the climactic basketball game. Any of these alone is nothing to screech about, and indeed, spotting characters and references is fun on its own merit – but the ethos behind it all, of making Warner Bros. the sole provider of culture in a universe pathetically dependent on the work it cannibalises from itself, is as revolting as it is revoltingly proud of itself. It really has to be seen to be believed. But in order to believe it you’d have to see it. What a dilemma.
So, no. We don’t recommend Space Jam: A New Legacy. Mike’s still going to try to get José to watch the first one though.
With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.