Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

*. Basketball fans like to debate Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James as the sport’s GOAT (or Greatest of All Time). Personally, I think all GOAT discussions are pointless. Even the rules of the game are always changing. It’s possible to talk about greatest career achievements but that’s about it.
*. In any event, I’m not a basketball fan. I don’t know if I’ve ever managed to watch a full game. But in Space Jam: A New Legacy James goes up against Jordan in the movie sweepstakes, with a movie that I think is meant as a sequel to Space Jam (1996). That original Space Jam is (mis)remembered these days as something of a kiddie classic and there had long been plans for a sequel, but in the event it took them twenty-five years. Or until another GOAT showed up on the scene.
*. I won’t compare the two movies any more than the two players, mainly because I don’t remember Space Jam now and I’ve no intention of going back and watching it again. For what it’s worth, James doesn’t embarrass himself in the acting department. But aside from that, this is a terrible movie.
*. We can begin with the title. It was also released as Space Jam 2, which isn’t as snappy (or self-important) but seems more accurate to me. What was the Old Legacy? Wouldn’t that be the legacy of the first movie? In other words, Space Jam 2? How does one movie count as a legacy?
*. The plot is unnecessarily complicated. A computer algorithm in the Warner Bros. “Serververse,” personified by Don Cheadle as Al-G Rhythm, gets upset at “King” James when the basketball god doesn’t like Al-G’s idea for a new platform launch. So Al-G kidnaps the King and his kid Dom and spirits them off to the Serververse where James will have to win a basketball game to free himself, his son, and all of his fans.
*. For some reason I wasn’t clear on the only players James can recruit for his team are the same gang of Looney Tunesters from the first movie. Bugs and Lola Bunny (the latter a character invented for Space Jam as a sop thrown to girl-power advocates), Daffy Duck, Porky Pig (who raps as the Notorious P.I.G.), Tweety Bird, the Tasmanian Devil, the Roadrunner, and even Granny (now imagined as a kick-ass old lady who knows all the moves from The Matrix). Al-G Rhythm, meanwhile, has the Goon Squad, who are a bunch of alien-type superheroes.

*. There were moments when I thought something interesting might have been on tap about the merging powers of media, big tech, and celebrity and the threat of the surveillance state. The Serververse is such a joyless place. But such concerns never amount to much, or are even erased by a more powerful current pulling in the opposite direction.
*. The thing is, this is a movie that champions media conglomerates, big tech, and celebrity. I think every significant brand in the Warner Bros. catalogue finds placement, while James might have, and I think should have, been embarrassed at the two-hour act of analingus that the script amounts to. Yes, he has to learn to be a better dad and let his son just be himself without forcing him to become a mini-me, but even that comes across as an act more of noblesse oblige than acquiring good parenting skills.
*. Speaking of good parenting, is James that wrong for trying to get his kid to concentrate on sports rather than playing video games? I get that Dom wants to be a game designer, but it’s also good to get some exercise now and then.
*. The message here though, which gets yelled out at one point by a play-by-play announcer, is that all that time kids spend playing games hasn’t been wasted. This is actually a theme in a lot of today’s movies aimed at young people, perhaps most obviously in Ready Player One. And it’s also very much a corporate message, with little daylight in today’s media environment between “Keep playing!” and “Keep shopping!”
*. I know this movie wasn’t made for me or people like me but I still hated it in an unqualified way. The animation all looks like crap, though very expensive crap to be sure. I didn’t even know what Al-G’s sidekick Pete was supposed to be, but I’ll mark that down to my own tech illiteracy. There were zero laughs, no drama, and truly nothing remotely interesting going on. With all the branding by Warner’s and James it feels like nothing so much as a two-hour commercial for both corporate entities. So it’s not just bad but a particularly unpleasant and manipulative kind of bad, and bad for the whole family. Let’s hope any new legacy ends here.

14 thoughts on “Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

      1. Alex Good Post author

        1946 Disney movie set in the Old South mixing live action and animation. Obviously really, really outdated in racial presentations, which is why I think it’s pretty much disappeared.

  1. Bookstooge

    I really disliked the first space jam, so I am glad to hear this one was even worse. It sounds horrible.
    And a message that it is all right to play video games, but not go out and play basketball? No wonder America is so fat and dying from obesity related problems. We’re gonna be depopulated by 2045!


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