When the original Space Jam hit theaters, R. Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ was not only an inspirational hit song, but was un-mistakingly identifiable with the one and only NBA legend Michael Jordan. Jordan was everywhere and made Nike a household name. Now, Nike is catching flack for not supporting ‘Mom’ athletes, Jordan has been in retirement for a minute (from baseball and basketball) and LeBron James has emerged as a philanthropist, businessman and baller whose name is on the lips of every sports commentator and journalist around the world.
Space Jam: A New Legacy opens with James gently brow beating his son, Dom (Cedric Joe) into taking his practice sessions more serious than gaming. After being nudged by his wife Kamiyah (Sonequa Martin-Green), he makes a concerted effort showing interest in his son’s digital game design. However, when the game glitches, the pair find themselves inside a server controlled by Don Cheadle (Al G. Rhythm), who just wants to be recognized and taken seriously as ‘the’ ultimate’ designer for the Warner Brothers brand.
Where producer Ryan Coogler and director Malcolm D. Lee succeed is providing a fun-filled, nostalgic trip through the Warner Brothers animated catalogue while enjoying shenanigans of favs like Yosemite Sam, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird and the others. But, when James literally utters the line “it never goes well when athletes try to act” you’re inclined to agree with him. As entertaining and adorable as it is to watch King James geek out over the ‘toons’ or as refreshing as it is to enjoy Lola Bunny (Zendaya) not being sexualized in a crop top or even delighting in watching a crowd of fans including literally every conceivable WB film character and toon one can think of, it doesn’t distract from the zaniness of it all. Maybe that was the point.
Having said that, the film does hone in on the juggling act plaguing celebrity parents who are raising families and how delicate that balance can become if not handled with kid gloves. You get the overwhelming sense that family comes first for LeBron James and if he had to walk from all of this tomorrow, he would do so in a heartbeat. That, one message, for me was worth the price of admission alone. Not to mention that kids will totally invested and get a kick out of the animated ballgame and its outcome. At the end of the day, despite the constant marketing overkill of Warner Brothers (at the expense of making fun of themselves), audiences who loved the first ‘Space Jam’ will find themselves delighted all over again when Space Jam: A New Legacy it hits theaters and HBO Max on July 16th.