‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ Splits Critics Down the Court

Warner Bros. buzzworthy new Bugs & co. hybrid adventure Space Jam: A New Legacy is warmed up and ready to take its shot in theaters and on HBO Max streaming today (Fri., July 16) — but will the new spin on a ’90s nostalgia slam dunk score big, or go down as a major air ball in animation history? Currently ranking a squishy 37% on Rotten Tomatoes, Malcom D. Lee’s revamp starring LeBron James, Cedric Joe, Don Cheadle and the Looney Tunes is inspiring some colorful criticism:

“Warner Bros.’ hellbent fixation on smashing its own characters together …  feels like the endgame of a Hollywood that has become more focused on intellectual property rights than innovation. That’s the sour take. The bittersweet counterargument is that Lee’s massive sandbox allows him to seed curiosity about cinema history in kiddie audiences who’ve just come for the slapstick … But at least while James continues to define his own legacy, he can say he’s bested [Michael] Jordan with this decent-enough kiddie flick.”

— Amy Nicholson, Variety

“The animation, consisting of both traditional 2D and CGI, is impressive, and there’s certainly a lot of it. But it never feels as joyful as you’d hope, too often coming across as corporate machination rather than inspired imagination. That becomes particularly apparent when the classic Looney Tune characters are eventually rendered in CGI form, which just feels wrong. Another problem is that James lacks the charismatic appeal of Jordan, who, although no actor, anchored the previous film with his sheer likability. Arriving a belated 25 years after the original, which was no great shakes to begin with, Space Jam: A New Legacy doesn’t live up to its grandiose, overly optimistic title.”

— Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

Space Jam: A New Legacy
Space Jam: A New Legacy

“The fevered Oedipal drama strikes some disquieting notes, and Cheadle eventually generates real menace the more he comes to resemble a certain finger snapping supervillain not under Warner copyright. There’s a nearly astute satire of the app-driven life bubbling under the meta high jinks. And the movie throws so many gags at the screen that several jokes actually stick. But the purposeful sensory overload mostly yields head-spinning stupefaction, leaving a viewer feeling like Wile E. Coyote after hitting a mesa wall.”

— Glenn Kenny, New York Times

“Held together by the most tenuous of narrative threads, “Space Jam: A New Legacy” offers a relatively amusing story that rises above mediocrity often enough to keep adult audiences engaged, and kids from squirming. There’s no real reason for this sequel/tribute to the original 1996 film to exist, but now that it does, there’s no reason to wish that it didn’t. While “You could do worse” probably wouldn’t pass muster with the movie’s marketing people as a tagline, it’s probably the most accurate assessment of the film … Fans of the first movie will like it. Fans of King James will like it. The Warner Bros. promotional department probably already loves it. If this is corporate synergy fired up to a terrifying new level, there’s still enough heart at the movie’s center to keep it from becoming all business.”

— Kristen Page-Kirby, The Washington Post

Space Jam: A New Legacy
Space Jam: A New Legacy



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