Space Jam: A New Legacy, by Albert W. Vogt III

Sports, am I right?  In most areas of my life, I try to model Christ as much as possible.  Being a fan of athletes and the teams they play for can sometimes complicate that mission.  I have probably discussed in other videos how I am from the Chicago area.  As such, I am a fan of all the teams from my home town, except the White Sox, but that is a different story.  I discussed much of this in my review of the original Space Jam (1996).  Because Michael Jordan will always be on a pedestal for me, I do not countenance lightly any perceived threats to him or his legacy.  While his movie with the Looney Tunes cartoons is not, in my humble opinion, the greatest accomplishment for which he is remembered, it is still ours.  And we Chicagoans stick to our own.  So, along comes stupid LeBron James with his darn Cleveland Cavaliers, I mean Miami Heat, I mean Cleveland Cavaliers (again), I mean Los Angeles Lakers. . . .  At least Jordan stayed in one place, mostly.  We will not discuss his forgettable years as a member of the Washington Wizards.  The two never met each other on the basketball court, so it is difficult to compare who is better.  Either way, Jordan has (and hopefully always will) more championship rings!  You see what I mean?  All this is petty, and yet it influenced my viewing of Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Like the original, Space Jam: A New Legacy begins with a young version of our main character, in this case a teen aged LeBron (Stephen Kankole) growing up in Akron, Ohio.  His mother, Shanice (Xosha Roquemore), drops him off for a basketball game.  His friend on the team, Malik (Jalyn Hall), brings him a Nintendo Gameboy.  Almost as soon as he starts playing it, a huge helping of foreshadowing plops itself down in the form of his coach (Wood Harris) yelling at him about distractions.  Not content with this verbal assault, when LeBron misses the game winning shot his coach blames the video game.  Anyway, fast forward through his basketball career, which is done in montage with the opening credits, and you have his oldest son Darius (Ceyair J. Wright) shooting hoops on a court at the James residence.  Looking on is LeBron’s youngest son, Dom (Cedric Joe), who seems more content with a video game of his own creation rather than playing with his brother.  And who else should stride onto the scene but none other than LeBron James (as himself).  When he sees Dom messing with his game and not taking basketball seriously, guess who gets a lecture?  Later on, LeBron’s wife Kamiyah (Sonequa Martin-Green) suggests that LeBron was too hard on Dom.  Seeking to mend some fences, the next day LeBron takes Dom with him to Warner Brothers Studio.  He has been lured there by Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle), who is actually an algorithm (get it?) running a super computer on the studio lot.  Good Ol’ Al decides that he is jealous of LeBron’s fame and notoriety, and he wants to exploit the superstar so that he can become famous, too.  Or something.  It is a little vague.  Anyway, when LeBron turns down the proposal to be in movies because, as he put it, athletes are never good actors (is that a shot at him or Jordan?), Al is none too pleased.  He then concocts a way bringing LeBron into the computer, and unfortunately Dom is along for the ride.  Once inside the digital universe, Al challenges LeBron to a game of basketball.  If LeBron wins, they can leave.  If he loses, he must stay inside the computer.  Because Al also seems to be a bit of a stalker, he knows about the recent tension between LeBron and Dom.  Thus, Al banishes Lebron to Looney Tunes world and Dom stays behind.  Al then clearly manipulates Dom into upgrading the kid’s basketball video game, though the boy goes along with it because Al is allowing him to do things he likes doing.  As for LeBron, he meets up with Bugs Bunny (voiced by Jeff Bergman), though he is the only one around.  In another example of “because the movie says so,” all the other cartoons have been vanished to other parts of the Warner Brothers-verse.  After some cartoon shenanigans, LeBron is able to convince Bugs to help, and stealing Marvin the Martian’s (voiced by Eric Bauza) spaceship, they take off to find the other cartoons.  Initially, LeBron wants tall, powerful characters like the Iron Giant or King Kong to be on the team.  You know, the kind creations that would help you better when your goal is to when a basketball game (even though they show up in the crowd watching the game anyway!)?  But, no, they stick with the original Looney Tunes cast, who are made into digital 3-D versions of themselves for the game, again just because.  In another act of theft, Al has also stolen a scanning application and has sucked in thousands of people from around the world to be in the crowd.  So now LeBron has to play for them too, including his family.  Anyway, the game is the predictable, computer generated image (CGI) showdown you would expect.  Dom finally realizes he has been played all along and switches sides, LeBron learns that there is more to life than basketball, and everyone is able to go home in the end.

In the middle of my viewing of Space Jam: A New Legacy I got a text from Cameron stating that he had just finished watching the same film, which he referred to as “a Warner Brothers fever dream.”  Well put, I must say.  In the original Space Jam, there is a moment when Daffy Duck kisses his own bottom where there is a Warner Brothers logo affixed to his posterior, also referring to himself as company property.  That was as far as they took the affiliation with the studio in the 1996 version.  Space Jam: A New Legacy should really be called Warner Brothers: We’ve Made a Lot of Movies.  References, references, and more references.  There is no way a human brain can process all the crap it digitally crammed into the film.  You see nods to The Matrix franchise, the lamentable and directionless DC Comics cinematic universe, and so much more.  And yet, despite having all these incredible characters to choose from, they went with the same old Looney Tunes characters.  Would there have truly been an outrage if they had tried something different?  Hey, LeBron (who, as I understand it, had some creative control), you tried making the same movie as Jordan.  Just like in basketball, you still did not do it as good!

The theme I would like to discuss in Space Jam: A New Legacy from a Catholic perspective is the underlying tension between LeBron and Dom.  Dad wants his son to be a basketball player.  Son wants to be a video game developer.  Unfortunately, I do not know what this is like from personal experience, unless you count my interactions with my nieces and my Godson.  Either way, as I understand it, fathers try to give their children the tools they need to be successful in life.  Sometimes, though, particularly when you are concerned with your legacy (ahem!), what you want to see them do can supplant what they actually want to do.  Ultimately, everyone (be they Christian or otherwise) have to step out from their parent’s shadows and be their own person.  Interestingly, this leads me to Mary.  We do not get much of what She was like as a parent, but there are telling snippets.  Whatever fragments we do have, they seem to suggest that not only did She care for Her Son, but that she submitted to His will.  Now, I am not suggesting that parents should let their children do whatever they want as they are growing up.  Mary’s is a special case in that She carried God in Her womb.  Jesus was fully man, but also fully God.  Regardless, she clearly nurtured in His early years, as in the story of finding Jesus in the Temple attests.  As an adult, Mary supported Jesus, being there with Him in His most crucial moments.  She was not telling Him what to do with His life for that was already a foregone conclusion.  LeBron’s parenting early on is more like being a coach, as Kamiyah points out.  At the end, LeBron takes Dom to video game developing camp instead of to the basketball one.  It shows that the dreams of our children can be guided to a degree, but more so they should be supported.

Still, as good as such things are to keep in mind, Space Jam: A New Legacy is a hot mess.  This is not simply my Jordan loyalty talking.  It had a flimsy premise and Don Cheadle was obviously phoning it in.  And to think I almost had my nieces along with me to see this nonsense.  I am sure they would have been highly confused.  I was as well, though for different reasons.  If you must watch a film with the title Space Jam, watch the original.

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