This IP Can't Dunk
New York magazine|July 19 - August 1, 2021
King James gets traded to the Warner Bros. super-team.
By Bilge Ebiri

“ATHLETES ACTING, that never goes well.” This throwaway joke uttered by LeBron James in Space Jam: A New Legacy may be the film’s only pseudo acknowledgment that the original Space Jam wasn’t an unimpeachable masterpiece. For years, the 1996 hit, in which Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and a variety of Looney Tunes characters are forced to play an intergalactic game of basketball, was one of those movies kids adored and parents forced themselves to sit through. James, who was 11 when Space Jam came out, was reportedly one of those kids and has now replaced Jordan as the star of the franchise, perhaps setting the stage for a lucrative post-NBA career.

Here’s the good news for King James: Questions about who’s the better player aside, he is certainly a better actor than His Airness ever was. He also has the advantage of working with journeyman director Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man, Undercover Brother, Girls Trip), an underappreciated pro who keeps things bouncing along—a step up from the first film’s Joe Pytka, who, despite being an acclaimed commercial director, couldn’t properly frame a close-up.

The film’s basic idea has value too. Those of us who became parents in the subsequent years have discovered that the combination of NBA superstars and classic cartoon characters remains potent to this day. This may be why the premise of Space Jam: A New Legacy hasn’t steered far from that of its predecessor: Our hero must assemble a team with Bugs, Daffy, and the rest of the Looney Tunes crew for a high-stakes game against some intimidating creatures who have been given the skills of real-life basketball stars (including Klay Thompson, Diana Taurasi, and James’s own Lakers teammate Anthony Davis).

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