Review: “Space Jam: A New Legacy”

Box Office Space Jam Beats Black Widow

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is a deplorable act of IP coercion and grave robbery that is as boring as it is vindictive.

The convoluted plot sees NBA superstar LeBron James lured into a terrible pitch meeting at Warner Brothers with executives – Steven Yeun and Sarah Silverman cashing big cheques for a single day of their most insincere work to date.

The meeting aims to create an opportunity to secure the LeBron ‘brand’ as the ‘Warner 3000′ algorithm (personified by Don Cheadle) offers to scan him into their digital library and trot him out like bonus content in pre-existing franchises.

When the pitch concludes, James says something that everyone is thinking. James jokes that the algorithm is busted, and this was “among the worst ideas I’ve ever heard.” That slight results in Cheadle’s algorithm kidnapping James and his son to orchestrate a game of basketball to buy his freedom. James is cast into the Looney Tunes world and joins Bugs Bunny to blah blah blah basketball.

Before “Space Jam: A New Legacy” even begins, it’s a project mounted on a false premise. LeBron James is not Michael Jordan. This is not about basketball ability, but on pure recognisability, Jordan is one of the most famous and most recognisable sports stars of all time. All-encompassing, transcendent pop-cultural omnipresence. Bigger than basketball and bigger than sport.

“Space Jam” succeeded in hitching the Looney Tunes to the world’s biggest and most relevant star at the time and managed to escape ridicule because of the “you can’t make this up” Jordan transition from basketball to baseball and back again.

James’ first foray into acting in the Amy Schumer written and Judd Apatow directed “Trainwreck” was a highlight in the film. That version of James, playing himself, had comedic precision and instinctive self-awareness to enjoy playing with public perception.

By contrast, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” finds a deeply flat, overwhelmingly unlikeable one note star, required to create falsehoods to serve the mechanism of this heartless machine. This is an excuse for soulless, corporate shill attempting to deal out dopamine in the form of beloved IP.

The gags are as dated in comedic edge and digital trickery as a Billy Crystal Oscar ceremony intros. Unlike Crystal, a Hollywood icon, the intertextual references reek of disrespect and meanness. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is an opportunity for Warner Media to spitefully live action role play (or LARP) some of its most controversial films.

George Miller and Kennedy Miller Mitchell productions accused Warner Bros. of “insulting” and “high-handed” behaviour relating to withholding fees owed after the success of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a matter that has since been settled. And would you look at that, Warner Bros manipulates that masterpiece to superimpose James and Bugs Bunny into a chase sequence.

Ken Russell’s “The Devils” is neutered and cosplayed in the film, despite Russell’s final cut of “The Devils” being withheld from release by Warner Bros. to this day. Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange”, once banned for being a morally offensive film, is presented devoid of context and declawed. As I was watching this IP charge – which is completely ripped off from the finale of Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One – I felt those claws under my eyelids like Malcolm McDowell’s Alex.

AT&T’s decision to shift Warner Bros. theatrical slate to HBO Max was seen by filmmakers as an act that hijacked one of the most important studios in film history. That disrespect has now extended to power-brokers – like George Lucas buying the rights to deceased stars to reanimate them into new films – is now a reality.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the animation/live action integration of the original “Space Jam” is far better than the claustrophobic, pixel vomit bridging the ‘larp’, the living and the lewdly appropriated.

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is dead on arrival, and the filmmakers and studio proudly trot out the corpse like it’s “Weekend at Bernie’s” – another film I wouldn’t inflict on children.

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