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4K Ultra HD Review: Space Jam: A New Legacy

October 12, 2021

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Arriving a full two-and-a-half decades after the original Space Jam, which fused live action and animation to bring together the worlds of professional basketball and Looney Tunes, Space Jam: A New Legacy is a sequel built squarely around nostalgia. And not just nostalgia for the 1996 film, but nostalgia for a variety of other films from the Warner Bros. vault as well.

Because, in addition to being another mashup between basketball and classic cartoon characters, this sequel also serves as a chance for the studio to revisit a number of their other characters and properties. While not without some amusing moments, this gives Space Jam: A New Legacy a distinctly cash-grab feel (not to mention feeling like a copy of WB’s own Ready Player One from a few years ago).

Where as the first one featured Michael Jordan alongside a gaggle of cartoon characters, this sequel (reboot?) stars LeBron James, who also produced the film as well. LeBron plays a loose version of himself, a family man struggling to relate to his adolescent son Dominic (Cedric Joe), who has designed his own basketball video game that he would rather work on instead of following his father’s footsteps on the actual court.

The plot finds LeBron and his son going to the Warner Bros. studio lot for a pitch meeting about a new partnership called Warner 3000, that would put a digitized version of the star player in a variety of the studio’s properties. LeBron is unimpressed, but before he can leave, him and his son end up getting sucked into the Serververse by a conniving algorithm named Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), where all of the classic Warner Bros. properties are stored. In order to get his son back, LeBron must play a game of basketball against the sentient algorithm.

At this point, the star player is dropped into Tune World, where he encounters Bugs Bunny and must compile a team of Looney Tunes characters to play against Al G.’s “Goon Squad” in a version of his son’s video game. Aside from LeBron James (whose acting range seems limited at first, but somewhat evens out as the film goes on) and a variety of other professional NBA players, Space Jam: A New Legacy has a lot of star power behind it.

It’s directed by Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man Holiday and Girls Trip), and produced by Creed and Black Panther filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who helped get the project off the ground due to his childhood love of the original. A lot of work clearly went into the film, not least of which from the animators and visual effects artists who worked on it. But the problem with Space Jam: A New Legacy is that it exists almost solely to capitalize on audience nostalgia for a variety of pre-existing intellectual properties, from both the Looney Tunes universe and broader Warner Bros. canon as well.

It’s been accused of essentially being a commercial for the studio’s fairly new streaming service HBO Max, and this isn’t an unfair accusation. The Tunes not only jump through scenes from a number of the studio’s films from Casablanca to The Matrix, but the crowd of spectators at the big basketball game is filled with iconic Warner characters, including the likes of the Iron Giant, King Kong, Pennywise, and even the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange (a strange addition to the film that calls its target audience into question).

I did enjoy some of the animated moments. It’s fun to see the classic 2D characters back onscreen, before they are converted into fuzzy, upgraded 3D designs for the big game. A sequence where Lola Bunny (voiced by Zendaya) hops through a Wonder Woman comic is nicely animated in a classic comic book style, and there is admittedly some amusement to be had in seeing Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote placed into a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road. But these cross-references can only take this bloated and overcrowded film so far in terms of entertainment.

At its heart, the film offers a story about a father learning to reconnect with his son and respect his own life goals, but this gets somewhat buried in the hyper pace and non-stop action of the nearly two-hour Space Jam: A New Legacy. It’s an overstuffed film, packed to the gills with cameos, some moments of cringey humour (Porky Pig raps at one point), and constant visual stimuli, almost to the point that it’s hard to keep up with it all.

Watching Space Jam: A New Legacy feels like binging on candy. It’s not entirely unenjoyable while it’s on, and there are some flashes of fun, but it leaves you feeling somewhat empty and with a bit of a sugar rush headache. I can’t say that I hated watching it, but I can’t say that it doesn’t feel like a pretty shameless cash grab, either.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K Ultra HD set, which I was sent for review, comes with a regular Blu-ray disc as well. There are no bonuses on the 4K disc, but four featurettes and a handful of deleted scenes can be found on the Blu-ray. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a shiny slipcover.

First Quarter: Game On (7 minutes, 36 seconds): LeBron James, Ryan Coogler and other members of the cast and crew talk about what attracted them to the project and their love of the first film.

Second Quarter: Teamwork (7 minutes, 49 seconds): Looks at how the filmmakers inserted all of the background Warner Bros. characters and other star athletes into the film.

Third Quarter: Out of This World (8 minutes, 9 seconds): This third chapter looks at designing the computer world of the film, as well as the CG character designs.

Fourth Quarter: The Looniest (7 minutes, 8 seconds): This last piece primarily focuses on the sound effects and music in the film, which builds on the classic soundtrack from the first one.

Deleted Scenes (7 minutes, 38 seconds)

Deleted Scene 1 – Next Level (4 minutes, 8 seconds)

Deleted Scene 2 – In Cleveland (44 seconds)

Deleted Scene 3 – Timeout (50 seconds)

Deleted Scene 4 – Are You With Us? (42 seconds)

Deleted Scene 5 – No More Secrets (1 minute, 25 seconds)

Space Jam: A New Legacy is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 115 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: October 5th, 2021

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