Space Jam: A New Legacy – A Review

Review by Martin Morse Wooster:


Space Jam:  A New Legacy is a fun-free synthetic entertainment substitute.  Its many writers (six are credited) created a screenplay from artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and gas.  

The idea is that LeBron James is taking a meeting with some bigwig at Warner Brothers.[1]  James and his kid are mad at each other because he wants the kid to go to basketball camp and he wants to go to coding camp.

So after the meeting, the kid runs away, gets in the elevator and ends up really really deep in the WB basement, which is full of computers.  He takes a wrong turn, and he and LeBron are in the “serververse” which is run by Al G. Rhythm, played by Don Cheadle.

Rhythm makes a deal.  If James assembles a team of the Looney Tunes characters to play a basketball game against Rhythm’s characters and he wins, he and his son are free.  If they lose, they’re trapped in cyberspace forever.

Now the first question is:  why does this have to be a basketball game?  They’re in cyberspace.  They could play anything—space croquet, space canasta.  But of course if they don’t play basketball, they couldn’t call the movie Space Jam!

So James, using the handwaving drive, ends up in “Tune World” as a cartoon.  He finds Bugs Bunny, and they bring back the old gang.  And here is where the problems start.

You may recall late last year the WB announced that Pepe Le Pew would be retired as a character because all he did was hit on women but Speedy Gonzales would be retained because Mexican-Americans liked his courage and determination.

Well, Speedy Gonzales is in this movie.  Like Yosemite Sam, the Tasmanian Devil, Foghorn Leghorn,[2] Marvin the Martian, and other minor characters, he has about two lines.  The only WB cartoon characters with substantial time are Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Lola Bunny (introduced in the 1996 Space Jam).

 And because apparently all WB intellectual property is in the same universe, Wonder Woman is in this movie (voiced by Rosario Dawson).  There is also one reference to Casablanca and one Harry Potter joke.  Oh, and apparently the audience is full of WB characters, but the only one I recognized was The Mask.

But what the Space Jam cast doesn’t have are Mel Blanc, Chuck Jones, Fritz Freleng, or any of the original creators.  They can get voice actors who sound exactly like Mel Blanc, but all they are are synthetic fun-free shadows of the great originals.

And when they don’t just copy the past, the college of screenwriters makes wrong turns.  Remember Granny, the valued senior citizen who owns Tweety?  Well, here Granny swigs martinis and talks trash.  (I hope you don’t find this transgressive.)

So the game begins and we swiftly learn that this isn’t an ordinary basketball game.  The monsters who make up the “Goon Squad” can get several hundred points on a shot for—well, this isn’t really explained.  But the movie ends the way you think it does.

I should explain the film’s one good joke.  At halftime, Coach Daffy Duck announces that he’s found Michael Jordan!  The cartoon characters are excited until they learn that Daffy has found Michael B. Jordan who I hope was paid handsomely for his cameo.

As an actor, LeBron James is OK, and is 10,000 times better than Shaquille O’Neal[3].  He’s not the problem.  The problem is that Space Jam is a bad idea that spent too long in development hell and was probably rewritten far too many times.   I can’t imagine anyone who would find Space Jam: A New Legacy worth his or her time or money.

[1] Sarah Silverman, who phones it in, plays the bigwig’s personal assistant.

[2] I always liked Foghorn Leghorn because this character is the one surviving legacy of the great radio comedian Fred Allen, who created a character called “Senator Claghorn” that the Warner Brothers cartoonists turned into Foghorn Leghorn.

[3] Trekkers should know that Sonequa Martin-Green plays James’s wife.  She is competent and not a reason to see this movie.

6 thoughts on “Space Jam: A New Legacy – A Review

  1. Speaking of Foghorn Leghorn, DC Comics is doing mash-ups right now of their characters and Warner Brothers characters. One of them is a meeting up of Jonah Hex, Foghorn Leghorn and Yosemite Sam. It sounds silly but it works remarkably well. Other mash-ups include Wonder Woman and the Tasmanian Devil, Batman and Elmer Fudd, Harley Quinn and Gossamer, Catwoman and Tweety and Sylvester, Joker and Daffy Duck. Quite superb all. If you download the DC Universe app, you can read then for free.

  2. DC Comics is doing mash-ups right now of their characters and Warner Brothers characters

    “Right now” = 2017

  3. JeffSmith say of the mash-ups: “Right now” = 2017

    Interestingly enough, they just got posted on the DC Universe app so I assumed they were new. It’s not them to post material that old of that nature as they’re now doing a six months after floppy printing policy on digital access to everything.

  4. Please mention Kenny Delmar, who was the voice of Senator Beauregard Claghorn on Fred Allen’s radio show. Delmar’s accent and delivery were thus the templates for those of the self-important rooster.

  5. “…synthetic entertainment substitute…” and “..they are are synthetic fun-free shadows of the great originals.”

    was all you needed to say, even if it does lean on “synthetic” a bit heavily.

    That word ought to invoke ERB Barsoomian visions of horror, but instead just makes me think of toothpaste tubes squeezing out “beef flavored substitue” in a bad space epic.

    Elsewhere, I’ve read that Lola Bunny is about the only reason to see this film, but I’m friends with Gary Wolfe and so default to Jessica Rabbit when it comes to cartoon depictions of voluptuous, rabbit adjacent females.

    Does anyone else find the “Mel Blanc substitues” more an annoying reminder of Mel’s greatness than acceptable replacement?

  6. To be fair, Mel Blanc didn’t do the voices in the original Space Jam. He died in 1989. According to Wiki, producer Ivan Reitman “was serious about the voice actors for the established Looney Tunes characters being far better than Mel Blanc and not just replications.” Uhm… :O Anyway, the late Joe Alaskey was one of Mel Blanc’s successors, and he left the project after being put through months of auditions. So the voice cast included Billy West (as Bugs and Elmer Fudd), Greg Burson (as Foghorn Leghorn and some of Elmer Fudd’s lines), and other voice actors for different parts. (Yes, June Foray was one of them! And Maurice LaMarche as Pepé Le Pew sounds like a great fit.)

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