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‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ review: How LeBron James’ performance compares to Michael Jordan from 1996 movie


Ah, 1996.

What a splendid year in American culture. “Pokémon Red” and “Blue” were introduced to the United States. Kurt Angle won a gold medal with a broken freakin’ neck. And, by the way, you never fed that Tamagotchi you begged your parents to buy you. (And to think, you probably have kids now.)

But also hitting theaters in 1996 was the classic Michael Jordan-led “Space Jam,” a fine slice of Americana that belongs in the Library of Congress alongside William Hung’s discography and a DVD copy of “Phantoms” (Ben Affleck was the bomb in it, yo).

“Space Jam’s” long-awaited and rumored sequel finally came to life in “Space Jam: A New Legacy” on July 16, and we’re here to tell you it’s … definitely a movie that happened and that some poor soul at Sporting News was tasked to watch.

MORE: Space Jam 2 soundtrack, tracklist

We’re not philistines over here at SN, and we can say that “A New Legacy” was a fairly entertaining and fun flick. There are much worse ways to spend your time, such as learning to juggle chainsaws.

Listen, no one is saying “Space Jam” was one of the finest pieces of American cinema to ever grace the silver screen — that label is reserved for finely crafted films such as “Batman Forever” and “Gigli.” The love for Jordan’s flick is strictly driven by beer-fueled nostalgia goggles and an undying need to deify anything related to No. 23. (Sorry, dudes, Michael Jordan’s cologne smells like burnt rubber mixed with expired egg nog. Pick yourself up some Dolce.)

So the bar for “A New Legacy” wasn’t high to clear. But, surprisingly, shockingly … flabbergasting-ly? … “Space Jam: A New Legacy” actually lives up to its predecessor, and in some ways it surpasses it.

Here’s the breakdown.

(Editor’s note: This review contains spoilers.)

Space Jam: A New Legacy review

The challenge that movie critics often face is that they largely review for themselves and not for the intended audience. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is fine, and it’s even good at times — it’s a nice, forward spin on Jordan’s film for a new generation that grew up on their cell phones and on Instaface or SnapGram or whatever they’re using now. (TikBook? Is that a thing?)

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is a largely inoffensive and entertaining two-hour animated/CGI romp through Tune World (and all of Warner Bros. shared properties) that features more than enough slapstick humor that will entertain the kids and high-level (and, sorry) older references that’ll keep the adults entertained. (Bugs Bunny cosplaying as William Shatner? *Chef’s kiss.*)

There’s a decent mix of entertaining one-liner humor, and gags — LeBron James morphing into Robin when getting to DC world is a nice bit of meta-humor — and legitimate heart and soul, two things that the original move actually lacked, making way to massage Jordan’s ego a bit.

If you’re bored, slightly buzzed or have a young family and are looking for a fine way to kill a few hours on a Friday or Saturday night, you can do much, much worse than watching “A New Legacy” — such as juggling those chainsaws or going to Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The movie, though, is severely lacking in Bill Murray. 

Well, you can’t win ’em all.

Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James

As mentioned, there’s not much aside from starpower that makes “Space Jam” a good movie, no matter how subjective that measure. It’s fine, it’s entertaining, and you know what? That’s perfectly OK.

There are definitely differences between the two flicks: The Jordan-led appearance in the 1996 film planted him firmly as a real character in an animated world — the LeBron James successor does a decent mix of both.

It’s safe to say that acting with green screens and digital renders is tough, so for someone as great as Jordan, that’s a tough hill to climb when you’re not an award-winning actor.

LeBron isn’t a stranger to a little bit of over-acting, after all, but he was perfectly serviceable in the movie. What more can you really ask?

The Jordan vs. LeBron debate will rage on, but at the end of the day they both should be thankful their careers landed on the court and not being scolded by Martin Scorsese.

Space Jam 2 plot

Dominic James, (fictional) son of hoops star LeBron James, is a bright 12-year-old who’s fixated on video games that he’s developing his own, much to the chagrin of his father. LeBron, some years earlier, was scolded by his youth basketball coach for playing a GameBoy on the sideline during the game. So, there’s some serious parental projection issues happening here. 

An artificial intelligence that lives within Warner Bros. studios servers, King Al-G Rhythm (Get it? Like “algorithm?”), wants to pair with LeBron on a new technology, which LeBron scolds as one of the “five worst ideas he’s ever heard” (making a “Space Jam” sequel was not on that list, apparently).

As an act of vengeance, Rhythm kidnaps LeBron’s son, with the only route for the basketball player to take to win a game of hoops inside of the game that Dominic created.

After Rhythm has his face-to-face with LeBron to explain his nefarious plot (a classic movie bad-guy mistake) to send the Looney Tunes to extinction and keep his son in Server World forever, he sends LeBron to the “rejects” in Tune World, because clearly he didn’t see how the first “Space Jam” movie worked out for Danny DeVito and Muggsy Bogues. 

Anyway, the rest of the film is about what you’d expect: a fairly cookie cutter Good vs. Evil plot with plenty of one-liners, zingers and that classic Looney Tune humor, with a healthy dose of heart sprinkled in throughout.

Space Jam: A New Legacy cast

You’ll be stunned to know that award-winning actors Michael B. Jordan and Don Cheadle willingly accepted paychecks for this movie:

LeBron James as himself.

Don Cheadle as King Al-G Rhythm. 

Cedric Joe as Dominic James.

Ceyair J. Wright as Darius James.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Kamiya James. 

Khris Davis as Malik.

Best Space Jam 2 quotes

“I’m a ballplayer, and athletes acting — that never goes well.” — LeBron James, showcasing an incredible measure of self-awareness.

“So, what brings you to Tune World, doc? Torn meniscus? Mid-life crisis? Run out of teams to play for?” — Bugs Bunny, perhaps throwing some shade at one-time teammate Michael Jordan.

“Gotta start with Superman, I could have used him on the Cavs.” — LeBron James. (How much help does he need?)

“Try not to get your hopes up too much. You might not be able to get all those top guys on a team. This ain’t the Miami Heat, you know.” — Bugs Bunny, clearly not a fan of superteams in the NBA.

“It’s almost like they were abducted. We have to rule out all possibilities: Aliens, right? The government. The New York Knicks.” — Malik. (#SayKnicksForClicks)


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