Space Jam: A New Legacy Is a Slam Dunk So Far as This Looney Tunes Fan Is Concerned
I can count on one hand the number of sequels I felt either lived up to or exceeded the expectations set by the first film, and luckily, Space Jam: A New Legacy can be added to that list. Growing up, 1996's Space Jam was a staple at my house and instilled in me a love of the Looney Tunes. I remember trips to a Warner Bros. Studio Store and getting excited whenever I saw Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck before riding the Roadrunner Express at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. The Warner Bros. Studio Store retail chain closed in 2001 and it's been over 10 years since I last went to Six Flags, but for the two-hour runtime of Space Jam: A New Legacy, it felt like no time had passed.
The premise of Space Jam: A New Legacy follows the formula set by the first film in which an NBA superstar gets sucked into a fictional world where the Looney Tunes's survival hinges on his ability to beat a team of superpowered goons in a game of basketball. The main difference between the two is that LeBron, unlike Michael Jordan, is out to save his son, Dom, from the evil clutches of an evil computer AI called Al-G Rhythm. While Michael is recruited by the Looney Tunes to defeat an evil alien named Swackhammer, LeBron recruits the Looney Tunes to be a part of his squad. Granted, the Looney Tunes weren't his first pick, but it was the only way Bugs Bunny could get the entire gang back together after Al-G Rhythm persuaded them to leave their homeworld for one of Warner Bros. other popular properties. Just imagine Casablanca's Ingrid Bergman saying, "play it, Yosemite Sam," or Granny being a stand in for The Matrix's Trinity.
If you're still on the fence about the sequel, ahead are the three biggest reasons you should check out Space Jam: A New Legacy when it premieres in theaters and on HBO Max on July 16.
There Are So Many Fun Easter Eggs
One of the biggest highlights of the film is the journey LeBron James goes on to recruit his ideal "Tune Squad." He clearly has his priorities straight when crafting the list for this hypothetical team. I mean, who wouldn't want Superman and Iron Giant, one of Superman's biggest fans, on their team? While jumping from world to world, James makes a Harry Potter detour. Who knew that James is one, a Harry Potter fan, and two, absolutely ecstatic about being a Hufflepuff? Either way, I couldn't help but let out a giggle. That's something that is great about the movie — you'll find yourself laughing at the most random references or jokes because you never know where the group will head next.
LeBron James Shows Off His "Animated" Personality
Is LeBron James, who plays a fictionalized version of himself, the best actor? No, and there's even a joke in the film about how athletes in movies is a terrible idea. Despite having an awkward start, James is absolute magic once he's sucked into the serververse by Don Cheadle's Al-G. Then there's his chemistry with costars Cedric Joe, who plays his son, Dom, and Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays his wife, Kamiyah. A big fan of 1996's Space Jam, Martin-Green shared with POPSUGAR the difficulties of playing a fictionalized version of a real person. "That was a little bit of a mind trip," she said with a laugh. "So, LeBron is playing himself, but he's also this sort of alternate version of himself. When I was creating my life as Kamiyah, I had to do a blend of some things that really happened to him and Savannah [James], but then also things that are just particular to the story."
Even the Supporting Characters Have Standout Performances
While James, Cheadle, and Joe are the film's main attraction, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of the standout performances from supporting characters like Zendaya's Lola Bunny, Jeff Bergman's Sylvester, and Lil Rel Howery. "It's kind of a small role," Zendaya told POPSUGAR. "But I wanted to be part of it because I really appreciate LeBron and all the work that he continues to do in and outside of his sport." Despite the short amount of screentime Lola receives, Zendaya makes the most of it and leaves you wanting more — especially after she impresses Wonder Woman.
From the moment Sylvester appears onscreen as Austin Powers's Mr. Bigglesworth, I could not stop laughing. And it's also Sylvester who becomes the group's almost savior when he makes a clever nod to the original Space Jam with a hilarious half-time cameo. Howery manages to be one of the most relatable people in the film, playing a version of himself that gets sucked into the serververse to commentate on the Tune Squad versus Goon Squad game. Don't even get me started on Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Diana Taurasi, and Nneka Ogwumike in their animated Goon Squad forms.
Space Jam: A New Legacy makes good on its promise to entertain fans of the original while being its own thing. It does so by letting the Looney Tunes experience life outside of their homeworld before they're able to reconnect with the audience and each other. The nostalgia factor is amplified not only by revisiting the original story in a creative way, but by including ties to other popular Warner Bros. movies and shows. There's a little bit of something for everyone, and the movie is best enjoyed as a fun trip down memory lane.