Rated PG because they really advertise the living daylights out of Warner's R-Rated properties. Like, who is that Matrix joke for anyway? It really pushes that and Game of Thrones. Really, it understands that a sizable percentage of the viewing audience is watching this out of nostalgia and those people are all old enough to watch the R-rated stuff. Like, Pennywise is watching the basketball game. It's not like the movie makes a big deal about it, but that's part of what is happening in the movie. The rest is pretty tame. There's some near-swearing, but nothing to really write home about. PG.
DIRECTOR: Malcolm D. Lee
Like, I didn't help unseat Black Widow --a much better film --by watching Space Jam: A New Legacy on HBO Max, right? I don't know how this works. Did I even help Black Widow's box office by buying it on Disney+ Premiere? There are all these new rules and I don't know where I fall on the grand scheme of things. I mean, ultimately, I'm probably pretty insignificant. But there are other me's out there. If the season finale of Loki taught me anything, there's probably an alligator version of me out there and I like it. Anyway, I'm not quite off my writing break right now. I write as I watch and I'm not on a tear of movies right now. Regardless, this came out of HBO Max and the long-time readers know that I'll pretty much watch anything that's a same day premiere because I don't have to pay extra for it.
If you want the one sentence version of this blog, the takeaway is that this is a better movie than the original 1996 Space Jam (which I'm sure based on the IMdB user-generated score, is a contentious thing to say), but that's not saying much. The buzzword for everything in this movie is "nostalgia". Maybe, two generations from now, this movie is going to be lauded as the greatest movie ever. Again, the OG Space Jam is apparently untouchable to many, and that movie is as bad as they come. (I'm not even going to pretend to mince words about how much that movie is just awful.) I will say, Space Jam: A New Legacy left me more happy than annoyed, but a lot of that comes from the fact that A New Legacy is just a better written movie. The conceit, like Space Jam, is mind-numbing. But in terms of structure, writing, and acting, there's at least something going on with A New Legacy.
The OG Space Jam was an hour-and-a-half of self-aggrandizing vomit. It had a message: Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time and no one should besmirch him at all AND the Warner Brothers make the best cartoons in the world. I'll say this, Space Jam was pre-Curb Your Enthusiasm. It took a real dude and a real film studio and made fictionalized versions of these ideas. But since Curb (this is my idea, anyway), people have learned that to make something successful that uses fictionalized versions of real people, you can't treat them as sacred. You have to make them exaggerated and flawed. While A New Legacy is still very generous to both King James and the Warner Brothers properties, it does the smart thing and makes LeBron James a flawed character and Warner Brothers kind of a villain.
That has to be the weirdest thing, right? I'm sure that there was a bunch of studio execs who sat very uncomfortably around a board table asking, "Are you sure that the Warner brand has to be the bad guy of the movie?" There was someone there saying, "No, this is how we make all the money." And he's kind of right. Like I stated, Space Jam: A New Legacy dethroned Black Widow in one week. But he definitely had his hands tied. At the end of the day, the Warner Legacy is just like it was in the first Space Jam movie: sacred. But Warner 3000, the future? That's the bad guy. It's a very cake-and-eat-it-too situation. But it is what it is. I get why they went that direction. It made the movie a better film.
Because think about it: LeBron James actually has a character arc in this movie. I mean, it is superficial as can be. It's kids' movie morality. LeBron James learned, as a child, that he had to devote his entire life to basketball if he wanted to be as great as he is. (Yeah, even blogging about this forces me to worship at the altar of LeBron James.) But he takes the lesson at face value, assuming that his kids would also have to put 110% into basketball to achieve anything in life. It's a great lesson. Our kids aren't going to be us. They can learn from our experience, but they have to apply it to themselves. It's bizarre how my kids are like me in so many ways and oh-so-very different. But LeBron, over the course of the movie, learns that Dom has his own path that he needs to commit and that's nice. In the process, he gets to enjoy the game of basketball again.
Does the movie imply that LeBron James kind of always hated basketball? Like, the movie gives LeBron's seriousness to the game as something akin to what Cobra Kai believes. There's no joking and there's no play. You can enjoy the fruits of the game, but you can't enjoy the game itself. LeBron appreciates how fun Dom's game looks because it makes him look great, but doesn't actually find the time on the court that fun until he's towards the end of Dom's game. It's funny, because that's the one time basketball shouldn't be fun. Because, think about this, Al G Rhythm (yup) is technically Jigsaw from Saw. Until LeBron can find a way out of his rigged trap, the people around him are going to die / get trapped in the Serververse for eternity. (I don't really see why Al G wants to do this outside of having people to rule, but whatever.)
Is it bad that I saw a way better ending for this movie that would have had some really dark implications? When the suits at Warner were letting Al G give his presentation to LeBron at the beginning (where LeBron was way too brutally honest), he mentioned that Warner 3000 would make a copy of LeBron and put him into franchises. So when LeBron chases after Dom when Al G took him, I thought, "Oh snap! They're just copies who think that they're real." Then there would have been the weird Wreck-It Ralph jumping between worlds, realizing that he's not the real LeBron, but he gets to have a special relationship with his kid. I don't know. It would have been super dark, but also matched up with what the movie spelled out.
At the end of the day, I got more laughs from this one than I did the previous one. The nods to the Warner canon actually annoyed me more than what was done with Universal and Ready Player One. My kid took away, "I should be able to play video games whenever I want because those are my passion" and I just didn't address it. Regardless, I'm glad I saw it for free, but it still ain't a great movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.