| Fantasy/Kids | Family |
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Producer: Ryan Coogler, LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Duncan Henderson
Writer: Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terence Nance, Jesse Gordon, Celeste Ballard
Release Date (Theaters): Jul 16, 2021 Wide
Release Date (Streaming): Jul 16, 2021
Runtime: 1h 55m
When LeBron James and his young son Dom are trapped in a digital space by a rogue A.I., LeBron must get them home safe by leading Bugs, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to victory over the A.I.’s digitized champions on the court: a powered-up roster of professional basketball stars as you’ve never seen them before. It’s Tunes versus Goons in the highest-stakes challenge of his life, that will redefine LeBron’s bond with his son and shine a light on the power of being yourself.
The idea of relaunching the beloved Space Jam with Michael Jordan’s modern-day equivalent was a slam dunk, but the execution is messier than a first grader’s March Madness bracket. Certainly, there’s a lot of fun to be had here by putting the Looney Tunes gang back into uniform — the problem is that expectations are insurmountable. Space Jam was lightning in a bottle: It had a theme song for the ages (which many ’90s kids still consider their personal anthem), a star who was at a particularly unique time in his personal and professional life, and writers who’d penned notable family comedies and grew up with Bugs Bunny and pals. Unfortunately, this film is more like a jug of rain, lacking both comedy and chemistry.
The movie’s laugh-out-loud moments are few and far between. It could be that the trio of young credited screenwriters have little or no experience in writing comedy or writing for kids; it feels like they did a quick study of Looney Tunes rather than growing up with the characters. And while director Malcolm D. Lee knows his way around raunchy adult comedy (Girls Trip, The Best Man), this is his first effort with CGI and animated characters and his first time creating entertainment for children. The result is that, unlike with MJ and the original Space Jam team, who showed their love by besting each other and delivered zingers at every turn, A New Legacy is rather flat — even after the Tune Squad is transformed into 3D animation (incidentally, why?). Cheadle is a wonderful actor whose humor crackles, but he’s certainly no Bill Murray. And where are the equivalents to Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing? The film has the wackiest of wacky premises and yet it’s predictable — and, for fans of the original, a disappointment. Kids who are less familiar with Looney Tunes may be a little lost. Of course, perhaps the idea is to convey to kids that you can now see the classic cartoon series on HBO Max (now with new episodes!). And they’re not the only Warner characters who make an appearance: The Serververse brings audiences through the full range of the Time Warner catalog, from Harry Potter to not-so-kid-appropriate Game of Thrones, with characters cheering on the high-stakes basketball game. While it’s fun to spot them in the crowd, rather than racking up points for the Tune Squad, it seems like they’re there to rack up subscriptions for HBO Max. Unlike the original, which was made as a celebration and union of great entertainers that appeal to kids, this entire endeavor feels a lot more like a commercial.