Author’s Note: I’m calling it Space Jam 2. I know it’s called Space Jam: A New Legacy, but I’m just gonna call it Space Jam 2.
Welcome to the age of Space Jam 2, a movie that was more inevitable than death and taxes. Yes, after 25 years, the Looney Tunes gang is back to do roughly the same thing they did last time. I enjoyed it. Others didn’t. It’s okay to like or not like a movie. What I don’t understand is the utter disdain for this movie when its predecessor is not a good movie either. Maybe it’s time to take a long, cold look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “when did I get so old?”
I don’t like children’s movies. Even as a kid I wasn’t too keen on 85 minute drags of slapstick humor. Even after having kids I still zone out most of the time.
Let me tell you a quick story about this. In 2012, I lived with a few of my best friends in Chicago. Now I can’t recall how the conversation started, but I remember where it ended- me confused, not remembering the Powerline song “I 2 I” in Disney’s A Goofy Movie. I watched that movie often as a kid. The father-son relationship meant something to me. When pressed as to how it was possible, I casually and truthfully said “oh, I just fast-forwarded through all of the music parts. I always did that with cartoons.” From that day on, anytime someone would voluntarily gloss over important details, you were said to fast-forward through the Powerline.
It wasn’t just for movies, but for any time someone just needed to cut to the chase, even if the climax (or chase) of the movie WAS the concert. It became an in-joke antithesis of “stop and smell the roses.”
Getting older has its advantages for sure, but the major downfall of it is the whiplash-inducing realization that childhood is always inching further and further away. Hindsight being 20/20 and pressed through a filter of halcyon digest, we tend to thing the things we remember are better than the things we’re experiencing right now.
It seems like there is a massive portion of all consumable media that is hell-bent on triggering millennial nostalgia. It makes sense. We’re in the prime years of desperately holding on to youth. After all, most millennials are fresh off of their agonizing, Zoom-based 15th or 20th high school reunions.
I was nearly ten when Space Jam was in theaters. Basketball was at its peak of youthful marketing- there were cartoonish uniforms, huge personalities, and NBA Inside Stuff, a magazine and tv show of NBA content for kids. Sure, only two teams won the title over the course of eight years. Who cares? We were still trading a pristine Tree Rollins card for a bent up Hakeem.
Space Jam was a revelation. It was the greatest movie I had ever seen to that point, and I had watched Speed at LEAST 50 times. Not even the greatness of Independence Day or Twister could steal the year from it. It had Michael Jordan! It had the Looney Tunes! It had a song with Coolio! I could not fathom what else I would want from a movie at that age.
Then we all grew up. Life wore on us like over-starched boxers and things became far less joyful. Sure, we have fun, but it’s not the same fun. Those years spent laughing at base level humor became decades of being too old for that. Appreciation for films comes along and you forget about movies.
Even the simplest forms of entertainment need to feel important and it’s nauseating. It’s refreshing when a movie is a one-off experience and not the start of another “universe” of films. Children’s movies seldom fit in here, which is why so many recent Pixar movies are great.
Still, massive tent-pole summer movies are often self-referential of other movies. They’re either setting up the next thing or recalling another thing so the thing you’re watching is like that thing you liked until a whole movie is just bait to watch another movie.
Maybe there’s something to the theory that the Marvel saga ruined major motion pictures because Easter eggs, bread crumbs, and stinger scenes became an *important part* of filmmaking.
And then there are mask-off nostalgia orgies like Ready Player One and, yes, Space Jam 2. Movies that often act as vehicles for various intellectual properties to be tossed at us so that we feel that warm sense of “hey I recognize that” over two hours.
But wait. Didn’t I say I liked Space Jam 2? Right. I did.
You see, sometimes it’s just nice to have something to look at. We all remember when Godzilla vs. Kong stole our hearts this year. I couldn’t tell you a lick of what that plot was about, but I can tell you that movie definitely kicks ass.
The difference is in the interpretation of the material. Godzilla, Kong, et al have always been trashy monster flicks were cities are destroyed and and humans are merely accessories. It’s just fun to watch two* big ol’ cartoon monsters go at it for a few hours.
So why doesn’t Space Jam 2 get the same treatment? Well, that answer is twofold.
First, there’s an attachment the ticket-buying audience has to the name Space Jam. Many parents of young kids are right in that Millennial umbrella where the original film was a major moment in culture.
Space Jam 2 had been in the works for several years. It was always going to star LeBron James, but man there were rumors about this movie being in production back BEFORE he went to Miami. Off and on, the idea of a Space Jam sequel were in the public consciousness for enough years that many parents who took their kids to see it this past weekend were not yet voting age.
Space Jam 2 doesn’t ACTUALLY GO TO SPACE! Yeah I mean if we’re keeping it a buck, neither did the first one, but I suppose both instances of the Tune world and the Serververse being “inner space.” Do we need a reason it’s called Space Jam? Not really. It just sounds cool.
So when people view a *sequel* to a movie they loved when they were young, naturally it won’t live up to the magic of the original. After all, that younger person didn’t have the incalculable weight of being under-payed and over-sexed in a dying empire on a tired planet.
We want a movie that’s very similar to the original, but also not similar to the original at all. Remember the discourse after The Force Awakens was released? “It’s just A New Hope with a girl” was something a LOT of people thought and said.
The second part is the fact that there are humans in this movie. I know, I swore there were human actors in GvK too, but I just don’t have the energy to see if that’s true.
LeBron James is a bad actor. He’s not supposed to be Meryl Streep here, and Michael Jordan wasn’t in the first. If your reason for not liking Space Jam 2 is the acting, please direct me to your browser history.
Don Cheadle was having fun as the villainous Al G. Rhythm. He’s chewing scenery like they cut the craft services budget, and it’s delightful.
Cedric Joe is actually pretty good as Dom. Too often, the Disney/Nickelodeon model for kid acting permeates these kinds of movies. Not in this case.
But this leads into the IP orgy that is the “getting the band back together” section of the film. LeBron has a goal of getting all of his favorite WB characters together, somehow magically knowing what is under the WB umbrella. There’s Harry Potter world, Mad Max Fury Road world, and in a fit of *this was definitely developed before the finale* Game of Thrones world.
BAM BAM BAM the things you recognize are shot at you fast and furious. (I’m about 77% sure Fast & Furious characters do not appear here.)
That argument boils down to the idea that it’s a long commercial for Warner IP. That’s a fair argument. I won’t argue against that. But to me, it didn’t feel egregious. The audience was half WB IP characters, but beyond the aforementioned sequence, that’s about it on the ad stuff.
Space Jam 2 is stupid. It’s a bit long in the runtime. But it’s a good bad movie. Removing the unquenchable expectation that many want it to live up to, there’s something fun in it. There’s a tried and true, father and son, generational misunderstanding-of-each-other story held together by an outlandish premise that is ultimately fulfilled without much of a hitch.
The problem is that we’re always looking for what we want to see; searching for some deeper level to all entertainment. In that, we do our own fast forward through the Powerline- that something doesn’t have to be intellectually made to be enjoyed. Sometimes media can be fun and disposable. Sometimes it’s nice to imagine what it felt like to feel happy. Joy is a fleeting sensation in the 2020s, don’t skip it just because it feels good to be sad all of the time.
You get one life. Maybe Space Jam 2 is the catalyst you need to deconstruct the Millennial existential dread and cynicism and just enjoy something simple and bright.
And if you can’t, remember that it’s a kids movie and you haven’t been a kid in a very, very long time.