Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Story By: Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terence Nance, Jesse Gordon, & Celese Ballard
Cast: LeBron James, Cedric Joe, & Don Cheadle
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When I watched the trailer in April, my exact words were, “Damn, this looks like it isn’t gonna be good. It’s going to be visually beautiful and fun, but that plot is already forced and unnecessary.” I made a promise after watching Like A Boss that if a trailer gave me “bad vibes,” I wasn’t going to spend my money watching it opening weekend/not rushing to see it. Luckily, because we have streaming now, I was able to save my money and watch this film at home…and boy am I happy I did DESPITE the film actually doing pretty well as a written product for me.
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Below are my grades for key components in #SpaceJamANewLegacy that I find to be key in any story/film/series—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development.
Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch/$$$, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start), & Don’t Rush.
I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale.
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Plot & Story: C
Character Arc/Development: A
General Entertainment Factor: Interesting Enough
Film Enthusiast Entertainment Factor: Don’t Rush
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1. I want to get this major issue out the way—the acting. Oh my goodness, the acting wasn’t strong at all by our main characters—but more LeBron. The first nanosecond that LeBron was on screen, I cringed. 🥴🥴🤦🏾♂️👎🏾
2. One of the most hilarious lines to me was, “I say, I say Winter is Coming!” Chile, I fell OWT! 🤣🤣🤣
3. To piggyback off point #2, one of the highlights for me was seeing the Looney Toon characters spliced in different mainstream tv and cinematic moments during the quest for a team in Act Two. 👍🏾
4. The messaging of this film was straight forward—one was around learning when to have fun/relax, and another was focused on not micromanaging the lives of other people/“Letting people do them, even your own children.” And even though I am not a fan of this sequel, I must admit that this was carried through extremely well from exposition to resolution via the conflict at the WB meeting in Act 1, the frustration during the quest in Act 2, and expectations during the game in Act 3 to name a few.👍🏾👍🏾👍🏾
5. The cinematography and production design were amazing! Like MY GOSH! I feel like the team just threw everything they had into this film. I remember having the repeated thought of, “Warner Bros is really a BEAST when it comes to this graphic shyt, and they don’t get acknowledged enough for it.” I have a reason to believe that this film was Warner Bros way of making a statement saying, “if you didn’t know, now you know!” 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾
6. To add to point #1, Sonequa Martin-Green who played Kamiyah James possibly had one of the best acting performances in the film. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾
7. Malik… he had CAAAAAAYKES! I peeped after the hug. 👀🤷🏾♂️😂😜
8. Okay, so the core of the story is actually (and I can’t believe I am saying this because I really didn’t enjoy this film) pretty solid. We have a film about a basketball father who finds it difficult to relax and enjoy a sport that has been his life’s success—everything is business and serious. With that, he finds himself forcing his offspring to follow in his footsteps without even considering/caring about what’s important to them in life, and is suddenly put in a situation where his way of thinking is challenged for something bigger. 👍🏾
But the issue with the story had to do with our villain. There was no real rationale for his existence, we weren’t in a setting that was so far into the future that it made sense, and the motive was just plain stupid for the villain. Warner Bros “made it work,” but it was so forced. I started wondering why they didn’t just think about how to actually build from the original film’s villain/motive in a creative way. 🤦🏾♂️
9. What was strange to me was the inconsistency around this being the Looney Toons’ second time in this predicament. We get Bugs alluding to the fact that this is familiar, but not really stating it, then in Act Two it seemed like all the Toons were new to this situation, but in Act Three they sort of remembered? 🤔🤔🤨
10. Speaking of Act Three and “remembering”, that “You couldn’t find A, so you found B” moment was also HILARIOUS! And “his” short cameo was probably in his top 10 best acting moments, and it was another one of the best deliveries in the film, like Woooooooow. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾
11. Another hilarious moment to me was Foghorn Leghorn looking at the Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffle sign. 😩😂😂😂
12. No lie, I was actually a little concerned about Don Cheadle’s acting in the beginning, but it seemed like he started to really get into his character’s groove towards the end of Act One onward. Despite his story being trash, I did enjoy him. 👍🏾👍🏾
13. Again, the graphics! My goodness! Act Three is possibly the most stunning and most fun part of the film. I mean, the Goon Squad character graphics were just amazing!👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾🙌🏾
14. The pacing was also pretty decent. The film moved well enough that you were constantly engaged with something—there really wasn’t any dead space. But I am docking pacing because Act One neglected on spending more time developing our villain to give the story more cohesion. 🤷🏾♂️
15. Was it just me, or did it seem like that was more praising/boasting/bragging of LeBron compared to what the first film did with Jordan? It started to feel extremely arrogant. 🥴👎🏾
16. Another highlight of mine, “I say, I say, so we pulling straws?” Look, Foghorn Leghorn came and did his damn assignment. Loved him! 🤣🤣🤣
17. No lie, his game was dope! So cool! 👍🏾
18. LeBron’s character arc/development was also really good. We got a sense of his character’s struggle and needs in Act One, and then Act Two continued to put him in a situation that picked at struggle and needs causing him to have to ask for what he wanted, then Act Three put him in his element BUT making him have to confront and make purposeful shifts and growth with his struggle and needs. Furthermore, each struggle and need was closely aligned to the overall messaging of the film—struggles with letting go, needing to relax, and struggles with giving his children space to be themselves. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾
19. The character cameos that provided a background to the main event were a clever and fun touch. As black folk say, “er’body and they mama was at that game…” 😂👍🏾
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Overall, #SpaceJamANewLegacy gives Space Jam-meets the Buddi system from 2019 Child’s Play-meets Ready Player One-meets the root of the tension between Zack and his father in She’s All That.
Some people bash the first Space Jam, or claim that it “wasn’t good”—possibly to keep their expectations low for this new installment—but I’ve always appreciated the original. What I think the original did that worked so well compared to this one is that the story around Michael Jordan was actually happening to him (or had happened already—can’t remember that far back). Jordan was transitioning/had transitioned to baseball, and the film built around that so there wasn’t much “acting” Jordan needed to do on screen. He was able to just be an athlete with a few facial expressions, and lines here-and-there.
With this new installment, it seems that a story was created for LeBron which meant he had to act and interact with different characters often, thus having to perform, and it was bad. He is in that elite cringe club with Beyonce.
The author of Talking Pictures, Ann Hornaday, makes a really great point regarding the importance of acting that rang true while watching this film: “If even one player is poorly tuned or out of step, the entire movie can feel off-key.” So despite the theme, arc, pacing, and the core plot all working well, the acting/delivery of this project tarnished what could’ve been amazing for me. This is probably really good for 8-13-year olds, though.
But this film definitely takes the medal for graphics and cinematography… Oh, also…put some respect on Foghorn Leghorn’s name! He had perfect timing and did what he was supposed to do! Wasn’t expecting to love him so much in this.