Space Jam has too many crossovers to be great

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Space Jam is for me an untouchable film. The original, starring His Airness itself, was the first movie I ever owned on VHS – if you were just to google this, I hate you – and it introduced me to basketball. as a sport. Becoming a basketball fan – a Chicago Bulls fan, no less – in 1996 is as perfect an entry into the sport as you could wish, and so I have fond memories of Space Jam. I haven’t watched it in years, because I don’t want to mar my memory. I know Michael Jordan isn’t much of an actor, that the movie was as much about merchandising opportunities as it was storytelling, the plot is muddled, and the pacing is everywhere, giving us three movies in one and never sticking together. landing with one of them. But I don’t care – it’s Space Jam, and so it’s great. Space Jam: A New Legacy, with LeBron James’ equally rocky acting skills, has a huge burden to carry, and he mostly carries it – at least, when he’s actually trying to do it.

The setup of the two Space Jams is very different and in many ways shows just how corporate our world is becoming. In the original film, Michael Jordan plays golf, and when he hits the hole he is dragged into Tune World. It’s fast, it’s simple, and it allows us to move forward in the story. The arrival of James is much more complicated. He goes to a meeting with Warner Bros., and they explain to him that their internal algorithm (which doubles as the villain of the movie) has suggested that he be the star of all of their new features. LeBron James meets Batman, who wouldn’t want that, right? Turns out LeBron doesn’t want that either – he sees it as a soulless cash grab, as an attempt to push his business name into stories where he doesn’t belong, and doesn’t want those characters. beloved ones become – shivers – marks, to lose their magic in exchange for big pennies and a basketball cameo.

Related: Rick & Morty Just Gave Into Its Worst ImpulsesThis is a solid critique of the entertainment industry as a whole, where everything is dominated by sequels, franchises, and cinematic universes. We get fewer and fewer original ideas, and even when we come across them, they’re made into franchises (The Quiet Place) or remade for new audiences (Parasite, Train to Busan). Criticism quickly collapses when you realize this is set in a Space Jam sequel, sure, but it’s a good point nonetheless. The problem is Space Jam: A New Legacy does everything it can to grab as many properties as possible, and for huge chunks of the run, even forgets to be Space Jam.

Space Jam's Lola Bunny: A New Legacy

Space Jam is good at just two things: showing humans in the world of Tune and showing Looney Tunes playing basketball. When Space Jam: A New Legacy does this, it’s exactly the same silly, shiny fun you remember. The problem is, it doesn’t go far enough.

When LeBron lands in Tune World, Bugs is the only one there. Fortunately, Bugs is able to perform a scene on its own, so we still have the pleasure of slapsticking ACME. Once they start to follow the rest of the Looney Tunes, a slew of unnecessary cameos are put into contention. Super Man, Wonder Woman, Mad Max, Austin Powers, The Matrix and even Rick & Morty are all involved in the recruiting process, apparently for no other reason than “Look, it’s that thing – now with Looney Tunes!”

Explain to me how this is different from the Warner Bros. costumes. wanting to put LeBron James in Game of Thrones? The reunion at the start is supposed to be ironic, with James’ objection to further commodification of iconic entertainment properties supposedly being the opinion the public disagrees with. How many members of the Space Jam: A New Legacy target population have even seen Casablanca or The Matrix? I see a lot of people complaining that the movie is just a long advertisement, but an advertisement for what? No eight-year-old is going to beg their parents to buy Casablanca for them on Blu-Ray because Yosemite Sam was the Sam playing him again in Space Jam. It’s not an advertisement, it’s a flex. Warner Bros. is like the rich kid inviting all of his friends to look at their figures, but you are not allowed to touch them because your fingers are too sticky. It’s not advertising, it’s just exhibition.

Of course, seeing Wile E. Coyote as Immortan Joe is pretty cool, and I can understand that some of the people involved in writing those scenes and making the cameos were these kids with sticky fingers having fun. to play in the toy box. But you never have the impression that he is at the service of anything. I don’t need my Looney Tunes movies to have any deep thematic meaning, but I wish there was something more than just “What if this movie, but with a character from Looney Tunes!”

Once we’re on the pitch – which takes way too long – the film sets in and delivers the popcorn fun it promised. I’ll issue a spoiler alert, but I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that LeBron’s team wins. We know what’s going to happen, but with the game taking the arcade-style rules of James’s son’s video game (it’s a subplot, we rushed to give us more time for Granny in The Matrix) , it’s even more Looney than the original the movie was. Taz turns the pitch, Roadrunner creates smoke screens, and Wile E. Coyote uses one of his patented inventions to mark multiple buckets at once. Other NBA and WNBA stars are having fun too – Dame Lillard, known for her slogan “Dame Time”, becomes Chronos, the master of time, while “Fear the Brow” Anthony Davis becomes a half-bird , half-man, designed around his famous eyebrows. Diana Taurasi, nicknamed ‘White Mamba’ by the late Kobe Bryant, becomes … well, you get it.

A Looney Tunes basketball feature film would have been a bit too much, but there is a clear division in the way the film tells its tale. Once on the pitch, Space Jam: A New Legacy focuses on Looney Tunes and tells original and creative stories with the incredible cast it has. Sadly, too long before that is less about Looney Tunes or new characters as it reminds us of stories that have already been told.

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