Sequels always have a tough time living up to the greatness of what went before them. Ghostbusters 2 (1989) received fewer positive reviews than the original 1984 movie, Halo 2 wasn’t as good of a video game as the first title in the series, while the TV remake of the 1987 film Dirty Dancing is simply not worth watching.
So when it was announced that LeBron James would be starring in a new Space Jam movie, many were filled with mixed feelings of both excitement and trepidation.
The problem that Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) had was, just like every other sequel ever made, that it would be compared to the original, a film that was a huge success and loved by fans. So it was perhaps predictable that the film and even LeBron himself would come under fire from critics and moviegoers. But is all of this criticism really justified?
The Case for a New Space Jam
The original Space Jam (1996) movie was a massive commercial success. Having generated $250 million of revenue, it was the tenth-highest earning film of that year and the highest-grossing film about basketball to this day.
Coach Carter (2005), a film that stars Samuel L. Jackson, hasn’t even come close to this, having generated $76.7 million at the box office.
This alone was reason enough for Warner Bros. to commission a second Space Jam. In fact, a sequel has been in development since 1996, with several options being explored, including a golf version with Tiger Woods and a skating version with Tony Hawk.
Additionally, since the 1990s, basketball has solidified its position as America’s second-favorite sport. It’s also become the sport with the most participants and the most NCAA DI teams. Since the introduction of sports betting in the US, the NBA has also become one of the most bet-on leagues in the country, with many taking advantage of the generous promotions in the process. With so many fans and so much demand for basketball-related content in the US and abroad, there was clearly going to be a big market for a sequel.
For LeBron James, starring in Space Jam: A New Legacy is also an important opportunity for him to chase the legacy of Michael Jordan, so it was a job he couldn’t turn down.
The Bad Reviews
According to Metacritic, a service that combines the review scores from critics and the public, Space Jam: A New Legacy received “generally unfavorable” reviews from both sources, with scores of 36/100 and 3.2/10 respectively.
The common themes of the criticism are that it’s too long, that it’s crammed with references to Warner Bros. IP, the story is a little thin, and there’s little tension created by the big showdown basketball game.
However, some of this is unfair. Firstly, you don’t need to watch the film to know that LeBron will triumph over the bad guys in the end, so there’s only so much tension that can be created when you already know the outcome.
Additionally, a lot of the complaints come from people comparing it to the original and not viewing it on its own. It is a film about a fictional basketball game inside a video game between the tiny Looney Tunes and a bunch of beefed-up enemies that are exponentially larger and have magical powers.
It’s also a film with a feel-good moral to teach the viewers about being true to themselves.
And sure, there are more name drops than Vernon Kay on I’m a Celebrity, but they’re all relatively harmless and it doesn’t feel like one giant commercial for every Warner Bros. cinematic universe ever made.
Overall, if you’re someone looking for a basketball film that depicts a pure basketball game, then you’re out of luck. If you’re someone that adored the original Space Jam, you might be disappointed. But if you’re a LeBron fan, you love the Looney Tunes, and/or you want a light movie to watch on a Saturday afternoon, Space Jam: A New Legacy is a slam dunk.