During the endless final sequence of “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” Porky Pig calls himself “the Notorious P.I.G.” and begins to rap. “This pig is lit,” the Looney Tune says. “I’m super legit.”
Porky should’ve added: “And my movie is s–t.”
In the pantheon of misguided sequels and reboots, “A New Legacy” is right up there with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” and “Little Fockers.” The original 1996 “Space Jam” wasn’t top-drawer either, but it made a buck at the box office. So, money-grubbing Warner Bros. took 25 years to crank out a follow-up that’s far, far worse. And they know it.
Running time: 115 minutes. Rated PG (some cartoon violence, some language.) In theaters and on HBO Max.
Over its interminable, nearly two-hour runtime, the film repeatedly mocks its very existence.
“I’m a ballplayer,” says star LeBron James, taking the reins from the original’s Michael Jordan, during a pitch meeting with WB execs. “And athletes acting — it never goes well.” That’s especially true of cardboard James.
The villain of the movie is the WB algorithm, called, ugh, Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), who is responsible for drumming up all of the studio’s soulless content, such as … this!
When LeBron arrives in Tune World, where all the Looney Tunes are supposed to live, he finds it largely abandoned. Bugs Bunny tells the Laker his animated pals left home for more appealing properties: Harry Potter, DC Comics, Game of Thrones, etc. That’s also what viewers have done: Today’s kids are much too busy monetizing their TikToks to watch a cartoon about a hunter with a speech impediment.
The plot, such as it is, is much the same as the ’96 movie, except the alien foe has been changed to a computer. The technology infusion robs the film of fun. Al zaps LeBron and his video-game-obsessed son Dom (who is not actually his child, but actor Cedric Joe) into “the Serververse” and challenges him to a basketball game against the menacing Goon Squad.
If LeBron wins, the pair gets to go home. If he loses, he’s trapped for all eternity — a feeling I was all too familiar with.
While LeBron recruits his scrappy team, Warner Bros. makes us watch a long HBO Max ad. Mad Max, Austin Powers, Rick and Morty, Batman, Harry Potter, “Casablanca” and more flash across the screen in a montage, as if to brag about the studio’s extensive catalog. It’s one of director Malcolm D. Lee’s many strategies to avoid developing characters or having funny scenes. Eventually, LeBron settles on Bugs, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fud, Lola Bunny & Co. to help him win.
All along, the movie blares its obnoxious “Be yourself!” message like a foghorn. At the start, LeBron aggressively pushes Dom to become a ballplayer like him and forces the teen to practice for hours on end. “You can’t be great without putting in the work!” he says. But Dom only wants to design video games in his bedroom.
You can probably guess that when the two are sucked into a computer, LeBron suddenly develops a newfound appreciation for his son’s coding abilities.
Some of the first film’s problems can be forgiven by its sheer camp value and because it was a real cultural event. Getting Michael Jordan, the most famous athlete in the world, into a movie was a huge deal. And the film’s soundtrack, whose big song “I Believe I Can Fly” was regrettably performed by R. Kelly, went six-times platinum.
This film, however, is nothing more than forgettable nostalgia bait.
Like they do with most reboots, audiences are gonna stick with “Space Jam’s” old legacy.