On paper, a second Space Jam movie doesn’t seem like a terrible idea. Though the original movie, released in 1996, is either hated or loved, with no in-between, by those who’ve seen it, it’s had enough of a cultural impact that an update feels like an inevitability. So now we have Space Jam: A New Legacy, in theaters and on HBO Max, with LeBron James stepping into Michael Jordan’s sneakers as an NBA champion forced to team up with the Looney Tunes.
Though James is an incredibly charming presence both on- and off-screen, he’s no match for the tidal wave of cursed energy that is A New Legacy. The moments of full-body cringe are pretty relentless, but the five most accursed are as follows.
5. The CGI Tunes
To quickly recap, A New Legacy, like its predecessor, leads up to a basketball game between the Looney Tunes and a team of supernatural basketball players. (In this case they’re not the Monstars but the “Goon Squad,” which is of course a clever play on the “Tune Squad.”) Right before the game begins, the mastermind behind the match, Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), a Warner Bros. algorithm, transforms all of the Tune Squad from their 2D selves into 3D, CG monstrosities. The 2D animation in this movie isn’t anything to write home about, but the 3D animation—well, it still isn’t, but it stands out for different reasons. If anything, A New Legacy treads into the territory of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie by rendering creatures that were never meant to appear real into realistic forms, and the result is frankly upsetting, not just because their motions are suddenly slightly stilted. Take, for instance, the texture of Porky Pig’s flesh. His new, weird, soft sponginess is unsettling at best, and though his furred friends are a little less off-putting, it’s not by much. Ironically, the Tunes also hate being 3D, though to know that one is cursed does not excuse said cursedness.
4. The Matrix “spoof”
Shortly after James is first sucked into what is referred to as the “Server-verse,” he and Bugs take a joyride through several other Warner Bros. properties. The idea of the sequence is ostensibly corporate synergy, reminding viewers how much they love the movies and TV shows that Warner Bros. has been responsible for up to this point, but it has a rather different effect. Watching characters like Road Runner and Granny drop into movies like Mad Max: Fury Road only makes viewers—or me, at least—wish they were watching those movies instead. But the worst example is the movie’s “parody” of Trinity’s introduction in The Matrix, a concept so stale that it was already a cliché when Shrek did it more than 20 years ago.
3. The whole concept of Al G. Rhythm
First things first, the name “Al G. Rhythm” is an eyeroll in and of itself, but the concept of the character is actually kind of fascinating. The A-plot of the film is that LeBron needs to reconnect with his son Dom (played by actor Cedric Joe, not James’ actual son), and the B-plot involves Al pitting them against each other in video game basketball after James rejects Al’s ideas. The thing about this storyline is that it literally begins with Al showing LeBron a clip reel of what basically happens right afterward in the movie, e.g. LeBron as Batman, LeBron in Game of Thrones, etc. In the meeting, LeBron says that he hates these algorithmically generated ideas, but then … the movie goes ahead and does these things anyway? It’d make more sense if Al was somehow redeemed, but he isn’t. He’s a villain until the very end. Whatever spark of self-awareness is present in the film positing that 1) studios are just churning out content based on an algorithm and that 2) they suck, is snuffed out by the film’s end.
2. Everything that Granny does
Though Granny has always been kind of a rowdy character, in A New Legacy, she feels fully played out. The entire concept of Granny, i.e. “an old lady but she is sassy,” is a genre of joke that stopped being funny at least a decade ago. (At least they don’t make her rap?) Watching her do flips on her walker makes me want to walk into the sea.
1. The Notorious P.I.G. rap
Notorious P.I.G., more like Notorious T.I.B. (Turned Into Bacon, because I am going to turn him into bacon for this abomination of a rap.)
And for good measure, here is one un-cursed thing about the movie:
1. Don Cheadle, somehow
Despite being saddled with arguably the most thankless role in the film, Don Cheadle somehow sells every single line he’s given. Even though he’s stranded in a greenscreen void, and even after he’s turned into a giant CGI monster toward the end of the film, he’s somehow still fun to watch. Don Cheadle has never given a bad performance, and he never will.