There are no spoilers in this review.
It took a solid 25 years for Hollywood to cook up a proper sequel to the hit 1996 film Space Jam, which at that time starred the NBA’s leading man Michael Jordan. With Space Jam 2, officially titled Space Jam: A New Legacy, there’s a whole new basketball icon steering the wheel by way of Lebron James. However, the four-time NBA champion gets some co-star help in a big way from much more seasoned actor Don Cheadle, and while they battle it out for top billing on the marquee it becomes perfectly clear that Space Jam‘s star is, was and always will be Bugs Bunny and his cartoon comrades.
The Tune Squad is back and with just as much comedic appeal, minus Pepé Le Pew, of course, due to his character being a beacon for sexual harassment. Add on the desexualization of Lola Bunny and it might feel like you’re watching a film sponsored by cancel culture, but ultimately those alterations make for a positive outcome overall when considering the times we’re living in and the evolution within this generation’s way of thinking.
Lebron James, his wife Savannah and their daughter Zhuri attend the “Space Jam 2: A New Legacy” film premiere – Kevin Winter/Getty Images
The main plot sees Lebron teaming up with the likes of Bugs, Porky Pig, Granny, Tweety, Lola Bunny (voiced this time by young Hollywood starlet Zendaya) and other Looney Tunes all-stars to go against Goon Squad versions of his real-life NBA counterparts Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis, Diana Taurasi, Nneka Ogwumike and most notably Damian Lillard. Don Cheadle stands in as “coach” of the opposing team and a computer wiz that will make you sick of the word “algorithm” within the film’s first 15 minutes. Nonetheless, a combination of classic jokes, an engaging storyline and a killer soundtrack that includes new music from Duckwrth and Cordae with “Settle The Score” make Space Jam 2 a movie worth tuning in for — all puns intended.
Off the rip, Space Jam: A. New Legacy sets itself apart from the OG flick by giving the franchise a massive tech upgrade. The Looney Tunes gang that make up the animated side of the cast enter into the CGI era without losing their classic 2D appeal, and the graphics are clearly on a level that simply wasn’t possible in ’96. Tech specs aside though, the plot is strong enough to give Lebron and company the ability to prove they can take over for MJ without too much comparison. Of course, there’s definitely a *little* comparison that needs to be made between the acting of King James and His Airness.
Although he’s charming throughout Space Jam 2 and for the most part a natural in front of the camera, it’s quite clear why James only has a handful of roles in Hollywood and majority of them are him playing himself. It’s a far shot from the cool-as-a-cucumber ease that MJ brought to the role originally, and unfortunately James just doesn’t bring that same emotional effect. Lebron’s loyal legion will surely enjoy seeing him be praised as King from the film’s start to finish though, but — well, let’s just say there’s a dry-cry scene that we’ll let you all be the judge of.
Zendaya attends the “Space Jam 2” film premiere – Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Warner Bros. did their thing when it came to flexing their other owned and operated franchises, surely to the dismay of some and the pleasure of others. The Matrix received tons of love for what we can only assume is promo for the upcoming fourth film releasing later this year. Other notable WB fam cameos included Austin Powers, Mad Max, the DC Universe, Rick & Morty and Game of Thrones amongst many others.
We won’t spoil who wins between Tune Squad and Goon Squad, or whether or not Jordan actually makes a last-minute cameo — director Malcolm D. Lee had a lot of fun teasing the return of MJ — but we can confirm tons of laughs, a stellar “halftime performance” tribute to Biggie by Porky Pig – err, we mean The Notorious P.I.G. — and a great family film overall with Space Jam 2. A good amount of ’90s purists may take a moment warming up to a new Tune World, but it’s definitely worth giving a try.
Space Jam: A New Legacy hits theaters and HBO Max starting July 16, 2021. Peep the trailer below.