It’s Wabbit Season on this Bugs Bunny/LeBron James mess.
25 years ago, Warner Bros. found a way to combine NBA legend Michael Jordan with the Looney Tunes, and that combination would happen to be “Space Jam,” which was one of the movies I grew up with. It was fun to revisit it during the pandemic, and I love its soundtrack, which features Seal, R. Kelly, and All-4-One, among others. It has been considered to be, by attribute a 90s favorite by many people, including myself, which is why there had to be a sequel with the subtitle “A New Legacy” and LeBron James as Bugs Bunny’s latest co-star.
This wouldn’t be James’ first movie role, because he also did “Trainwreck” and “Smallfoot,” and he was fun in those movies. Unfortunately, as charming as the basketball star is, he’s produced himself a bomb that lacks the heart and style of the 1996 classic. He can be a cartoon character, but he doesn’t provide the charisma Michael Jordan offered back then. But he isn’t the problem. That would happen to the be the tired story, the wasted humans, and the sequel’s lame updates. And believe me, there are too many of them.
The villain, this time, is humiliatingly played by Don Cheadle as Warner Bros’ Algorithm, who wants more recognition from WB fans, and digitally kidnaps LeBron’s video game designer son Dom (Cedric James). He holds him hostage, and forces LeBron to play against his team in a game of basketball, which is why he’s thrown in the Looney Tunes world, where he becomes animated, and teams up with Bugs (voiced by Jeff Bergman) to find the rest of the Looney Tunes characters on their team.
The traditional animation is good, but it lacks the edge of the 1996 hit, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” or even “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” (which bombed at the box office in 2003), and they have to be awkwardly merged in such WB IPs like “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “The Matrix.” Not even Elmer Fudd can replace Mini Me in “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”
The pre-release criticisms of “Space Jam: A New Legacy” include Pepe LePew being cut out and Lola Bunny being less sexualized and voiced by Zendeya and not Katie Soucie. She’s a beautiful and passionate actress, but she’s too modern to voice Lola, and if you don’t add Pepe, you call yourself a Looney Tunes fan?
Director Malcolm D. Lee (in his first entry since “Night School”) fails to take advantage of a “Ready Player One” set-up by making the humans awkward and annoying and the Looney Tunes appeasing to a new generation of movie goers. For one thing, June Foray would be spinning in her grave when Granny (voiced by Candi Milo) makes her say “Haters Gonna Hate” and kicks butt on the basketball court. Second, the Goon Squad with Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and other players being morphed into computer monsters have nothing on the Nerdlucks being transformed into the Monstars. And the worst of all is when Porky Pig (voiced by Bob Bergen) has to engage in a rap battle. Really? Really?!
The only cameos to make me smile are when Rick & Morty drop off the Tazmanian Devil (voiced by Fred Tatasciore), and Justin Roiland is able to voice them. But the humans, with appearances from Sarah Silverman, Michael B. Jordan (no relation), Steven Yeun, and Lil Rel Howery, have nothing on Michael Jordan or Bill Murray. In fact, not even LeBron or Bugs could survive this generic and routine story. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is a missed opportunity and one of the year’s worst.
You hope That’s All Folks.
In Theaters and Streaming on HBO Max.