Malcolm D. Lee directs "The Chosen One," aka LeBron James in Warner Bros. Pictures, Space Jam: A New Legacy. The standalone sequel follows James as he teams up with the Looney Tunes gang to win a basketball match against digitized champions to rescue his son from a rogue AI (Don Cheadle) named Al-G Rhythm.
Space Jam: A New Legacy opens up with a young LeBron James (Stephen Kankole) receiving a used Game Boy from his best friend Malik (Jalyn Hall). Unfortunately, LeBron's coach (Wood Harris) sees this and puts the thought of a win-at-all-cost mindset in LeBron's head. The coach's philosophy creates a domino effect in LeBron's personality, which he carries over to Darius (Ceyair J. Wright) and Dom (Cedric Joe).
LeBron hopes his seeds will follow in his footsteps, but Dom, a child prodigy in computer software, instead he dreams of becoming a video game developer. While discussing a movie deal at Warner Bros., LeBron invites Dom along in hopes of repairing their relationship. However, after an argument between the two and some nefarious planning by Al-G Rhythm, LeBron and Dom find themselves trapped in a virtual reality world.
Al-G Rhythm informs LeBron that he has twenty-four hours to assemble a team comprised of Warner Bros. characters for a friendly basketball game. LeBron teams up with Bugs Bunny for the recruitment process for his team. The bulk of Space Jam: A New Legacy takes place in a shared Warner Bros. virtual multiverse space.
Thus, six of the film's writers, including Terrance Nance and Keenan Coogler, let loose with all of the movies' inside jokes and Easter eggs. Kudos to the writers for placing the Looney Tunes characters in different Warner Bros properties that tie into their personalities. I won't spoil where your faves are, such as Daffy, Lola, and Granny currently reside. However, I will say the reveals put a smile on my face.
In hindsight, Space Jam: A New Legacy is a father and son story that translates into a new school vs. an old school that plays out in the film's climactic game. I also like the script's portrayal of LeBron's and Dom's relationship. Going into detail would spoil the magic, but I will say it made me realize that sometimes we need to let kids be kids and find their way.
I want to point out that the new film serves as a standalone sequel to the beloved 1996 Michael Jordan film.
Yes, both films blend live-action animation into a sports comedy film. In addition, James also plays a heightened fictionalized version of himself as Jordan did in the original movie. However, outside of one humorous MJ reference, the script avoids jokes about comparing LeBron to MJ, which is a wise move.
LeBron is no stranger to playing himself; in fact, I thought he was one of the highlights of 2015's Trainwreck. That said, the same way I didn't expect other athletes such as Julius Erving, Brian Bosworth, and of course Michael Jordan to deliver award-worthy performances in movies, I held LeBron to the same standard. Every athlete who decides to transition to acting on film will not be a Jim Brown or Fred Williamson. Therefore, LeBron does just fine with the material he has.
Regarding the rest of the cast, the voice work for the Toons is serviceable, while both Don Cheadle and Ceyair J. Wright do good in their roles. I only had two issues with Space Jam: A New Legacy. I would've trimmed down the running time by about thirty minutes. In addition, outside of a few songs, the soundtrack isn't that memorable. Nevertheless, Space Jam: A New Legacy exists to add to the legacy of LeBron James, and in that regard, the film is a success.
Final Grade: B
Space Jam: A New Legacy is showing in theaters now and available on HBO MAX until August 16th.