‘Be Yourself’ Is the Message of ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’

In Space Jam: A New Legacy, 13-year-old LeBron James, played by Stephen Kankole, misses the game-winning shot in his hometown Akron, OH. Before the game, young LeBron had fun playing some Gameboy video games.

After the loss, the unforgiving Coach C, played by Wood Harris, tells LeBron, “Focus. Get your head in the game!” That resonated with LeBron, who has become the best NBA player on Planet Earth, now playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 4-time NBA Champion LeBron, played by himself, lives with his family in Los Angeles. His young son Dom, played by bright smart Cedric Joe, doesn’t work on his basketball game. He’s just not having fun. LeBron reminds Dom that he needs to practice with summer basketball camp coming up. Dom’s mom Kamiyah, played by wise understanding Sonequa Martin-Green, reminds her husband LeBron that he needs to discover what Dom really wants to do. It may not be basketball.

Dom is the child prodigy video game designer. He created a scanning app that captures the attributes of human athletes into his game. In Director Malcolm D. Lee’s bizarre narrative, Dom’s talents draw the attention of cyber entity Al G. Rhythm, played by comically maniacal Don Cheadle, who controls the Warner Brothers Serververse. Basically, the Serververse is the Warner Brothers cartoon animated world.

When LeBron dismisses Al G.’s interactive platform pitch, Al G. abducts LeBron and Dom into his Serververse, kind of like the Matrix, yet another Warner Brothers intellectual property. Al G. leverages the rift between LeBron and Dom. He aligns Dom with his invincible Goon Squad composed of the cartoon animated versions of NBA and WNBA All-Stars Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Sue Bird, and others. LeBron must recruit and train his team to defeat the Goon Squad, and rescue Dom from Al G.’s evil intentions.

Space Jam: A New Legacy is the sequel to Space Jam (1996) starring NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan and Looney Tunes cartoon characters including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Bugs and Daffy are back in A New Legacy, voiced by Jeff Bergman and Eric Bauza. Zendaya voices Lola Bunny, Bug’s girlfriend, who’s a fierce basketball player in her own right.

Lola helps LeBron and Bugs assemble their Toon Squad to challenge the formidable Goon Squad. Much to LeBron’s chagrin, the DC Universe heroes like Batman and Superman are off-limits. Instead, he’s relegated to Porky Pig, Granny, and the rest of the Looney Tunes. Along the way, adversity and slapstick cartoon high jinks arise.

The screenplay for Space Jam: A New Legacy was written by Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terrance Nance, Jesse Gordon, and Celeste Ballard. Space Jam’s unfocused and tangential narrative suffers in the aftermath of the vast number of writers. A New Legacy is often a narrative mess. That being said, Lebron and A New Legacy’s overarching theme redeem the movie. No small feat.

No doubt, Michael Jordan is the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) NBA Player. LeBron James is the Greatest NBA Player on the Planet, now. LeBron is the better actor. In his first starring role, albeit playing himself, LeBron is funny and has authentic charm. Playing himself, he’s not perfect. He’s not supposed to be. LeBron is the NBA All-Time Great who sacrificed his childhood so that he could support his family and become the best NBA player that he could be.

While assembling and training the Tune Squad, Bugs asks LeBron, “You remember fun? Don’t you Doc?” LeBron recalls the little kid, who missed the winning shot back in Akron. It hasn’t been about fun, ever since then. After the Tune Squad gets hammered in the first half of their game against the Goon Squad, Lola Bunny tells LeBron, “We’ve been trying to be like you.” Much like Dom had been trying to be like LeBron. They can’t be him. LeBron poignantly says, “Cause you’re not me.”

In Space Jam: A New Legacy, we should all be ourselves. Not someone else. Malcolm D. Lee lightens the narrative with his wacky sense of humor. During the Toon Squad – Goon Squad showdown, a rap battle breaks out. Porky Pig’s Notorious P.I.G. throws down his lyrics. TNT Inside the NBA Host Ernie Johnson says, “He (Notorious) was spitting hot fire!” I laughed so hard.

Space Jam: A New Legacy isn’t a great movie. It’s good enough. LeBron James is funny and vulnerable giving his movie A Game. Director Malcolm D. Lee keeps it fresh with humor and the Looney Tunes characters. LeBron says, “I want you to be yourself.” Amen. Then again, that perhaps makes Space Jam: A New Legacy more than just good enough. Just saying.

Watch the official trailer:



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