Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
The Movie: “Space Jam: A New Legacy”
Starring: LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A rogue artificial intelligence kidnaps the son of famed basketball player LeBron James, who then has to work with Bugs Bunny to win a basketball game.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 27 percent
Froemming: Well, it is the end of Sports Month here at the JOE-DOWN, and it is time for us to get a little looney.
I decided we needed to watch the whacky origin story of Warner Bros’ most exclusive IP: LeBron James.
So we sat through the sequel/reboot/??? of “Space Jam,” a movie I am pretty sure NBA superstar Michael Jordan had to do to cover one of his infamous gambling bets.
Could have been worse, I guess. The movie could have starred John Michael Wozniak — who also had some hefty gambling debts at the time.
Brown, as I ponder why anyone in 1998 would still have a first generation Game Boy, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: So I didn’t get a glimpse into this movie until we did our review of “F9: The Fast Saga.”
See, a “Space Jam” movie starring LeBron James was rumored for a long time. Hell, it was joked about that one of the terms of Anthony Davis coming to the Lakers was to get a part in the “Space Jam” sequel. Then it turns out that a (virtual) Anthony Davis was in this movie…
Anyways, seeing that trailer and getting a glimpse of what was to come… I don’t know if I dreaded a movie this much since we almost ended the JOE-DOWN with Adam Sandler Month.
Was it as bad as I was imagining? It… wasn’t good. At all. We’ll get into it.
Froemming, get us started while I
plagiarize create a video game.
Froemming: Well, I was not joking when I said this was an origin story. Because this movie begins in 1998, a year I….well, I wish to remain employed so let’s just say I was technically in high school.
We meet a young LeBron, who plays youth basketball with his good-time buddy who gives him a hand-me-down Game Boy, which by 1998, I doubt would even still work because those things were giant pieces of (REDACTED). And the fun, thrilling and exciting video game distracts young LeBron to the point his coach just lays into him about distractions. You know who needs distractions from the bullshit of life sometimes? Children.
Brown: You know it’s never good for a movie when my second note is “(REDACTED) this coach and (REDACTED) this movie.”
As a lifelong video-game player, it’s my go-to to unwind. And right away, this movie goes hard after video games like Joe Lieberman after he heard about “Mortal Kombat.”
Froemming: Brown, why are you doing a politically conservative high school shamefully outdated fight rap?
Brown: In the case of young LeBron, that kid absolutely needs to unwind. Why? Because of his overbearing (REDACTED) coach!
Froemming: Also, the game he was playing was a Looney Tunes game, which they show in color despite this Game Boy being very much a black and white (though the screen usually looked mud brown and dirt green to me). And after this scolding by a joyless adult trying to live vicariously through young athletes *stares at you, America*, we get a montage of his career during the credit sequence. And since I know nothing about the NBA, LeBron James and whatnot, this was just a very confusing sequence of events until the movie started properly again.
Brown: Yeah, that montage pretty much glosses over the whole LeBron being the most hated figure in pro sports after he left his hometown on national TV to play for a super team in Miami.
Froemming: I’ll just have to take your word on that!
So the movie begins with two children on a basketball court. One is practicing while the other is goofing around on what looks like a Nintendo Switch on steroids. These two are the children of LeBron, and the youngest is named Dom, which makes me chuckle because of how he doesn’t care much about family, unlike that other Dom.
Brown: Note here that LeBron’s actual kids are not playing themselves in this movie. I don’t know whether that’s a knock on them or whether I should credit LeBon for not shoehorning his kids into movies like he’s Will Smith.
LeBron’s oldest, Darius, is showing a strong basketball acumen like his old man. But Dom, he doesn’t seem all that interested in playing actual basketball. Rather, he wants to be a video-game designer. Except his dad is, you know, LeBron (REDACTED) James, so basketball HAS to be his future, I guess?
Basically, LeBron is doing to his kids what that coach did to him as a kid. So yeah, this movie posits that LeBron is a shitty dad. Which, towards Dom, yes, LeBron is a shitty dad.
After a tense time on the basketball court, LeBron sees Dom’s game in action, which has players making half-court shots and launching hundreds of feet in the air for posterizing dunks.
You know, like “NBA Jam.”
Dom (REDACTED) ripped off “NBA Jam.” And it won’t be the last idea this movie steals.
Froemming: Well, since I have not seen an “NBA Jam” game being made since 1996, perhaps he just picked up on the fact he can just rip it off now since it is probably in the public domain.
Brown: There was a remake of “NBA Jam” released in 2010.
Froemming: That is the saddest thing I have heard, until I realized you knew that right away, making your knowledge of the existence of that game the saddest thing I have ever witnessed.
Anyway, Dom wants to go to video game camp but LeBron wants to put him through basketball camp, because no matter how many hints the boy gives, LeBron can’t figure out his youngest has no interest in the game itself.
Kids don’t always want to be what their parents are, LeBron. If I followed my dad, I would be a successful insurance agent right now who works normal hours and has a social life.
Brown: Right?! I’d be a home remodeling business owner with a family and a house on a lake instead of a guy talking shit on movies with one of his best friends on a weekly basis for a half-decade.
Meanwhile, we get this weird transition to a virtual world called the Serververse, which is run by Don Cheadle maximizing Tony Stark’s tech ability (at least in my own head canon) to become an actual algorithm named Al-G Rhythm.
The Serververse is where all the Warner Bros. properties are located, so we can have all sorts of cameos.
You may be thinking to yourself “Joe, who besides the Looney Tunes are in this movie?”
Well, my friend…
Froemming: I kinda wish the algorithm for my Spotify account came alive like this so I could beat the shit out of it for always suggesting R.E.M, Morrissey and Oingo Boingo to me each week.
So, Al-G (not to be confused with Ali G) has some big plans for WB, but his plan needs King James to work. What is his plan? The hell if I know, his plan changes into “suck everyone into a computer” because LeBron hates his idea of using his likeness in various properties without him having to do anything.
Brown: I think part of it is LeBron’s reach, which I’m guessing has to do with social media followings.
And while, yes, LeBron has a vast following, he’s not even the most followed athlete in the world; he’s number five. He’s behind three soccer players (Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar) and an Indian cricket player (Virat Kohli).
Froemming: I set you up for a “30 Rock” joke and you go off on a tangent about athletes on Twitter.
Brown: That’s because you didn’t get into Al-G’s pitch.
Froemming: From above: So, Al-G (not to be confused with Ali G) has some big plans for WB, but his plan needs King James to work. What is his plan? The hell if I know, his plan changes into “suck everyone into a computer” because LeBron hates his idea of using his likeness in various properties without him having to do anything.
Brown: Yeah, but you did a crappy job explaining how we got to this plan.
LeBron and Dom head to the Warner Bros. studio to talk about a movie deal. During the pitch — which has Sarah Silverman and Steven Yeun as corporate stooges — Al-G’s big pitch to LeBron is to use technology to put people, like LeBron, into all the big franchises. So think of LeBron in “Harry Potter” or “Game of Thrones.”
… This is literally SeinfeldVision from “30 Rock.”
LeBron… he craps all over the idea. And this infuriates Al-G because even an artificial intelligence whose purpose is to make decisions not based on emotions gets angry over being called stupid.
Froemming: Yeah, and right after LeBron and Dom make everyone in the room feel uncomfortable when they fight about video game camp. This leads to Dom storming off to the elevators with his old man following. And they end up in the server room.
Wait, how did they not notice the elevator not taking them to the right floor? I guess when you are as rich as they are, you assume every elevator will work right and not be a nightmare that traps you in between floors. Or could explode at any minute.
Brown: And because Dom is apparently a super nerd, he walks straight into the server room where Al-G sucks him up into the ServerVerse somehow.
LeBron gives chase and he is also sucked into the ServerVerse, where we see all the different parts of this world.
Frankly, after seeing this movie, I was expecting an announcement at the end of the movie that Warner Bros. was starting their own streaming service with how much they cram all their IPs in our faces. I would not put it past this movie to be a 110-minute commercial like “The Wizard” was for “Super Mario Bros. 3.”
Froemming: Or the original movie being one giant commercial for Nike!
Brown: Al-G basically tells LeBron to piss off for taking a dump on his SeinfeldVision ripoff idea. LeBron, though, is not having it. He wants Dom back. He’s pretty much Mel Gibson from “Ransom.”
Froemming: Al-G makes a deal with LeBron: Beat him at basketball and he gets his son back. Lose, they are stuck in this poor-man’s “Matrix” forever.
And then he sends LeBron to Tune World with 24-hours to assemble a basketball team. And there is only one citizen in Tune World, and that is Bugs Bunny.
And, just to point out, this movie is both aware and unaware of the original movie, which makes things very confusing at times.
Brown: Also, Tune World has just one occupant when LeBron arrives: Bugs Bunny. The movie explains that the rest of the Looney Tunes left Tune World to be part of other more relevant universes.
Honestly I think Bugs is the only one here because he got canceled.
Froemming: Hey, LeBron helped get him sober!
Brown: Forgot to mention that while in Tune World, LeBron is in cartoon form. So, you know, plenty of cartoon hijinks.
Bugs says that he can help LeBron assemble a super team in the Serververse. He’s got sound ideas like Superman and the Iron Giant because he’s one of the top basketball players in history.
Bugs has other ideas, and we go on a hunt for all the memorable Looney Tunes characters, who are scattered across the Serververse.
Froemming: I view Bugs like Kramer views Woody Woodpecker:
Brown: Froemming, which one was your favorite crossover? As much as I dreaded it when I saw it come across screen, Wily E. Coyote in “Mad Max: Fury Road” actually got a chuckle from me. Mostly from Wily E. Coyote doing the “Witness me” bit.
Froemming: “Fury Road” was the one I enjoyed the most. I cringed at the others, especially “Casablanca.” I get it is WB IP, but maybe not pull another Ted Turner on that movie.
Brown: This movie has a ton of problems. But this one was the most glaring to me. You keep using all these WB properties for all these cheap gags. But all you’re doing is reminding the audience that they could be watching SO MANY other better movies.
Froemming: Yeah, and there are some very, very questionable cameos in this. For a children’s movie, it is kinda fucked up that we get Alex and his gang of rapists from “A Clockwork Orange,” Arthur Fleck from “Joker” and Pennywise from “It.” The latter infamous for, you know, murdering children up in Maine.
Brown: Whoever they had play Pennywise made that character more terrifying than Bill Skarsgård.
While LeBron makes his super (see: Looney) team, Al-G bonds with Dom about his video game. See, Dom’s video game is going to be the basis of this basketball game, so Al-G convinces Dom to max out all the players. So all of a sudden, Anthony Davis is like an eagle, Klay Thompson is somehow water AND fire? Diana Taurasi, one of the greatest women’s basketball players in history, is a giant snake that is somehow, in 2021, worse CGI than The Rock in “The Mummy Returns.”
And like with his son, LeBron doesn’t listen to the Tunes at all and doesn’t let them play to their strengths. Instead, he wants them to act like a traditional basketball team. Tensions are high but it doesn’t matter because the 24-hour clock is out and it’s time for the big game.
Froemming: And people are sucked into their phones to watch the game in person, rather than on …their phones? And, frankly, the Goon Squad here is not as much fun as in the first movie. But, they are in the audience — along with the strangely out of place characters mentioned above including DeVito’s Penguin — so it has that going for it.
And, it is quite the beating they take in the first half. Because this is an “NBA Jam” ripoff, there are all these special moves. Unlike “NBA Jam,” this does not have a secret code to play as Beastie Boys, which is a damn shame.
Brown: I’m surprised we didn’t have people signed to Warner Records in the crowd. Imagine if Alice Cooper or Cher or, the bane of your Spotify, R.E.M, were in the crowd.
Yeah, at one point, I wrote down the score at 752-37. So yeah, LeBron and his family (yeah, the whole James family got sucked into the crowd, too) are doomed to a life in a server.
Also, Froemming, with Al-G trying to embarrass LeBron by having his nerdy son beat him in basketball, was this movie going for a modern “Oedipus Rex” thing? If they were, they did it poorly, but I got those vibes at a few points.
Froemming: I have not read up on dinosaurs since I was a kid, so I have nothing.
Anyway, at halftime it is looking bad. Granny is boozing it up in the locker room and nobody is enjoying this whole thing. Most of all, me. I was not enjoying any of this one bit. But hey, Sylvester has found someone who can help!
Michael … Jordan.
Michael B. Jordan, which was an OK joke I guess. Better than Rick and Morty showing up to drop off Taz.
I guess the other Jordan has his gambling under control so he doesn’t have to do this anymore.
Brown: In the locker room, LeBron is chewing out the Toons for sucking. They chirp back about how they’re doing everything LeBron wants them to do instead of what they’re good at. Then you see LeBron have an existential crisis, since this is how he treats Dom. Hell, when LeBron says that out loud, Tweedy Bird calls LeBron a bad father TO HIS FACE.
LeBron would have been within his right to slap the shit out of Tweedy. A stranger shouldn’t call someone a bad parent.
Froemming: Show me the lie, Brown. Tweedy was 100 percent correct.
Anywho, LeBron decides they should just do what they do best: Chaos. And so, the second half of this game gets more entertaining. Maybe I would watch the NBA if they allowed the shenanigans of the Harlem Globetrotters in the games.
Well, this makes Al-G a very sore winner-going-on-loser. To the point Dom realizes the most important thing is family. And joins his old man’s wacky team, which causes Al-G to decide to play the game on God Mode.
Brown: With Al-G basically breaking the game, LeBron and co. try to find a way to cheat the game, too. Because that’s a good lesson to teach a young audience. Like Jesse Ventura taught kids watching WWF in the 1980s: Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.
Dom remembers how the game glitched when you’d do LeBron’s patented crossover-stepback-fade shot (or whatever it was). If the game glitches, Al-G will lose power over the game so they can take the lead for good.
But, whoever takes the shot will die (or something) since the game would, theoretically, crash. LeBron, glory hog he is, demands the last shot. On the inbounds pass, Bugs takes the ball from LeBron and puts up the game-breaking shot. I’m shocked LeBron didn’t have this reaction.
It works. The game glitches and LeBron has a chance to attack the hoop for the game-winning bucket. Al-G appears to slow him down until Dom cheats EVEN MORE by giving LeBron another power-up that gives him the push he needs to dunk the ball for the game-winning basket.
So as American icon Bugs Bunny lays dying on the hardwood, LeBron and the rest of humanity celebrates their freedom.
I put in my notes: “Don’t act like there’s any consequence to what he did to ‘sacrifice’ himself.”
Froemming: Back in the real world, LeBron brings Dom to video game camp, which would have been amazing to me as a kid, until I would realize I would have to make them, not play them. Then Bugs Bunny rises from the dead to repeat the line Brown mentioned about him not being able to die.
Because Bugs Bunny is like The Grimace.
Brown: I think Bugs Bunny came to reality to look for erotic cakes like Homer Simpson.
Froemming: And it seems all the Tunes are vacationing at James’ home for the time being. I don’t know if there was an end credit scene, because I shut this off as soon as the credits began to roll.
Brown: Same here. Apparently there was a Bill Murray cameo. I don’t care.
Froemming, let’s go to recommendations before Alex and his droogs approach us after the game.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: No. As much as I enjoy the Looney Tunes, this was just an IP slog.
Brown: No. This movie is somehow less charming than the original. You should watch any of the other movies/TV shows/WB properties this movie constantly references.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: