Reviews: New Space jam movie starring LeBron James falls flat

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Pierra WillixThe West Australian
Email Pierra Willix
LeBron James may be following in the footsteps of basketball legend Michael Jordan, but the latest Space Jam flick proves why MJ is the G.O.A.T.
Camera IconLeBron James may be following in the footsteps of basketball legend Michael Jordan, but the latest Space Jam flick proves why MJ is the G.O.A.T.

LeBron James may be following in the footsteps of basketball legend Michael Jordan, but the latest Space Jam flick proves why MJ is the G.O.A.T.

Reviews for Space Jam: A New Legacy have started bouncing in, but many indicate that it has fallen flat, especially when compared to the 1996 original.

The sequel follows James teaming up with the Looney Tunes characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Lola Bunny to try and win a basketball game against digital champions after becoming stuck in a virtual space with his son Dom (Cedric Joe), which ruled by a tyrannical artificial intelligence—Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle).

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021).
Camera IconSpace Jam: A New Legacy (2021). Credit: HBO MAX/HBO MAX

Although the long-awaited sequel blends live action, hand-drawn animation and 3D CGI effects, it’s unique look and nostalgia for the original has failed to launch.

In its review, Variety magazine wrote that the movie was a “chaotic, rainbow sprinkle-coloured nonsense that, unlike the original, manages to hold together as a movie”.

The Guardian also labelled it a “stinker” and took aim at Warner Bros. and its attempt at “commercial propaganda” for including a dizzying list of its most famous characters throughout the film.

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021).
Camera IconSpace Jam: A New Legacy (2021). Credit: HBO MAX/HBO MAX/WB

“The studio it set out to glorify as a fading institution entering its decadent last-days-of-Rome phase. In this display of expensive corporate onanism, we arrive at a creative dead end for a studio reliant on classics that they’ve stopped minting,” it said.

Many other reviews said the film lacked heart and simply appeared to be a grab at self-promotion.

“The animation, consisting of both traditional 2D and CGI, is impressive, and there’s certainly a lot of it. But it never feels as joyful as you’d hope, too often coming across as corporate machination rather than inspired imagination,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote in its review.

“That becomes particularly apparent when the classic Looney Tune characters are eventually rendered in CGI form, which just feels wrong.”

Space Jam (1996).
Camera IconSpace Jam (1996). Credit: Warner Bros./Warner Bros.

Critics also took aim at the Los Angeles Lakers star himself, with The Hollywood Reporter also writing that “another problem” was that “James lacks the charismatic appeal of Jordan, who, although no actor, anchored the previous film with his sheer likeability”.

This is the basketball stars first major starring role, after previous cameo appearances in film and shows like Trainwreck, My Wife and Kids and Entourage.

When the original was released, Space Jam was the first feature film to be produced by Warner Bros. Feature Animation and used a mix of live action and animation to tell the fictional story of NBA star Michael Jordan’s initial retirement in 1993 and his 1995 comeback.

In it, he is enlisted by the Looney Tunes to help them win a basketball game against a group of aliens who planned to enslave them as attractions for their theme park.

Although its reviews were also mixed, it was a massive success at the box office, and grossed over US$250 million.

It became a pop culture phenomenon and spawned a seemingly endless amount of merchandise, but this time around, many folks are asking if that is all for the franchise.

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