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Space Jam: A New Legacy Review: Can LeBron Be Like Mike?

Space Jam: A New Legacy comes off like a two-hour dad joke: you either vibe out on its goofy wavelength or scratch your eyeballs out – there’s no middle ground. Director Malcolm D. Lee’s raucous reboot stays true to the spirit of the 1996 original but tweaked for the TikTok generation. It’s a loud, colourful, and often absurd family film aimed at Gen Z and the elder millennials who grew up on Space Jam.

A New Legacy stars the world’s greatest basketball player LeBron James, as LeBron James, the world’s greatest basketball player (and a so-so father). A New Legacy’s LeBron gives his kids all the things he wanted as a child, but he doesn’t always give them what they need.

LeBron’s son Dom (Cedric Joe) is a computer wiz whose geeky heart is set on making video games. Papa LeBron ain’t trying to hear any of it, though. Instead, he wants his sons to go into the family business: dominating professional basketball and jumping teams every few years.

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A sinister computer algorithm named, and I kid you not, Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle) notices the dissent in the James family, and he uses it to manipulate young Dom. Al G. Rhythm sucks LeBron and Dom into the Warner Bros. server-verse – a holographic world housing all the studios’ intellectual properties – and holds the duo hostage. To escape, LeBron must beat his son in a game of basketball. Easy peasy, right? Not so fast!

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Al G. Rhythm stacks the deck against LeBron like republicans drafting voting rights bills in communities of colour. Dom receives a team of superpowered professional ballers (Damian Lillard, Diana Taurasi, Klay Thompson). At the same time, LeBron must scrape together a sad-sack squad of Looney Tune characters. Hijinks ensue.

If you grew up on Looney Tunes, then you’ll get a kick out of their latest incarnation. A New Legacy features the series’ most beloved characters (sorry Pepé Le Pew) and brings back loads of classic gags.

Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman), Lola Bunny (Zendaya) and the rest of the gang never looked better. A New Legacy recreates the Looney Tunes crew in both a vibrant 2D style and gorgeous, ultra-detailed CG. If you ever wondered about the texture of the Tasmanian Devil’s fur, this movie got you covered.

A New Legacy looks like a neon-soaked fever dream, and it’s a lot to process. Prepare yourself for two hours of sensory overload. This is a movie where you catch Pennywise (the clown from It) chilling courtside with Batman Returns’ skeevy Penguin and Game of Thrones’ White Walkers. The film never addresses this either; they’re just part of the mise-en-scène.

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A New Legacy’s squad of screenwriters (seriously, check out the number of writing credits) went overboard with pop culture easter eggs. This decision morphs the picture into a less-inspired Ready Player One. It feels forced whenever the LeBron wanders off into other movies like The Matrix and Casablanca. I like the idea of LeBron and Bugs travelling between film franchises to form their squad, in theory, but the execution is heavy-handed. Far too often, A New Legacy looks like a commercial for Warner Bros. titles.

The film does possess enough self-awareness to poke fun at IP-driven filmmaking. In the story, creatively bankrupt studio bigwigs create Al G. Rhythm to churn out sure-fire hits using math, because creativity in Hollywood is all but dead. Hardy har, har. Calling this practice out doesn’t mean A New Legacy isn’t guilty of doing that very thing.

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By the time the credits roll, A New Legacy doesn’t feel like a love letter to Space Jam so much as a blatant cash grab. Everyone understands that Hollywood’s all about the Benjamins. This is the movie business, after all. But such flagrant corporate plundering destroys the illusion that the moviegoing experience is anything more than transactional.

As much as I looked forward to screening A New Legacy, this film clearly isn’t meant for me, or most adults. However, ten-year-old me would have a blast hanging out with LeBron and his Looney Tunes crew. Even the jaded film critic in me can get behind what the film has to say (aside from sign up for HBO Max).

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Space Jam: A New Legacy is a tribute to all the kids who dare to colour outside the lines. Dom and LeBron’s journey is a celebration of passion, creativity, and blazing your own trail. Is this movie a shameless cash-grab? Sure, both things can be true. Better films just make it less obvious.

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