On November 15, 1996, Warner Bros. released a movie that would change the course of human history – at least that’s what a bunch of millennials would tell you.
âSpace Jamâ hit theaters 25 years ago and became the highest-grossing basketball film of all time. (No I am don’t make it up. Sounds crazy, right?) For a certain generation, the battle between Michael Jordan’s Tune Squad and the Monsters was the pinnacle of cinema.
TO BE CONTINUED: The chronicles of “Space Jam”: 25 years of celebration
Then, on July 16, 2021, Gen Z received their own special portion of Animated Insanity. âSpace Jam: A New Legacy,â starring LeBron James in the lead role alongside Bugs Bunny and the other Looney Tunes characters, topped the box office in its opening weekend despite is also available to watch on HBO Max.
Because there isn’t enough debate involving Jordan and James yet, it’s time to definitely decide which âSpace Jamâ is the best movie. I watched the 1996 and 2021 versions of “Space Jam” back to back before the 25th anniversary of the original and took several notes with each viewing. (For example, I wrote the words âFoghorn Leghorn was just murdered,â âThe bugs are drunk on carrot juiceâ and âWhy are aliens running a crappy amusement park?â) Then j I divided things into five categories in order to crown a winner.
Full Disclosure: I’m in the Millennium Group, but hadn’t seen “Space Jam” in over two decades and only remembered the basics of the plot. I entered this experience with an open mind – and left with a melted brain. In short, let’s move on to the first category …
Best Actor: Michael Jordan or LeBron James?
I figured it would be an easy win for James. He displayed legitimately good comedic timing in âTrainwreck,â and he didn’t shy away from playing the goofy daddy on social media. (He managed to squeeze into a “Tuesday tacos” scream towards the end of the movie.)
Well, it was a tighter race than I expected. For as much natural charisma as the two guys hold, Jordan and James are both weirdly staid.
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Jordan barely changed the tone or volume of his voice. I never believed him as a MJ character, mainly because he was way too encouraging and never cursed Porky Pig for not being in good shape and wanting him as bad as him. He was sucked into a golf hole and landed in Looney Tunes Land, and the only emotion he showed was slight annoyance after his game with Bill Murray and Larry Bird was cut short. (He probably had a few thousand dollars at stake.)
James often seemed to read a Saturday Night Live Cheat Sheet, especially during the scenes in which he attempted to hook up with his son, Dom. Even the writers recognized the limitations here, as James says during the movie, “Athletes acting? That never goes well.” The fourth wall burst doesn’t work when that’s what’s actively happening onscreen. (Also, that doesn’t work much in general outside of âDeadpool.â Dude, I should have watched the âDeadpoolâ movies instead.)
Despite disappointing performance, James and “Space Jam: A New Legacy” take this turn. We’ll see if this move forces Jordan back into acting for âSpace Jam: And I Take That Personallyâ.
OK, if you haven’t seen the “Space Jam” movies, I desperately need you to read these plot summaries from Rotten Tomatoes:
1996: Swackhammer, an evil alien theme park owner, needs a new attraction in Moron Mountain. When his gang, the Nerdlucks, travel to Earth to kidnap Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes, Bugs challenges them to a basketball game to determine their fate. The aliens agree, but they are stealing the powers of NBA basketball players, including Larry Bird and Charles Barkley. So Bugs gets help from superstar Michael Jordan.
2021: When LeBron James and his young son Dom are trapped in a digital space by a dishonest AI, LeBron must bring them home safely by leading the Bugs, Lola Bunny and the whole gang of notoriously unruly Looney Tunes to victory over the Champions Digitized AI On The Court: A roster of pro basketball stars like you’ve never seen them before. It’s Tunes vs. Goons in the biggest challenge of his life, which will redefine LeBron’s bond with his son and shine a light on the power of being yourself.
In âSpace Jam,â an alien spaceship hovers over Jordan’s minor league baseball game and crosses a Piggly Wiggly parking lot. In “Space Jam: A New Legacy”, Porky Pig transforms into the Notorious PIG and wins a rap battle in the middle of the basketball game. Don Cheadle plays the villain known as Al-G Rhythm, the aforementioned Red AI. The Goon Squad is full of NBA player-animal hybrids. These are just things that you come to accept in the world of “Space Jam”.
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But by far the most absurd aspect of either movie was that Jordan got dropped by Stan Podolak (played by Wayne Knight) in this car and in front of this house.
Jordan, one of the most famous human beings on the planet today, lives here? I’ll be okay with aliens sneaking into Madison Square Garden to steal the powers of the NBA All-Stars, but that’s a bridge too far. Totally ridiculous. A victory for the original.
Using Looney Tunes
“Space Jam” features some classic Looney Tunes hijinks. When the pre-Power Monstars arrive in the lands of Looney Tunes – who is apparently inside Earth’s Core? – Bugs Bunny goes through all his stupid routine and drops a line of “Diminutive, right?” When they call Jordan a chicken, Foghorn Livorno replies, “I sound like that remark.” There were also some solid Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner gags. (I’d forgotten that the Coyote is one of the craziest characters in entertainment history.)
âSpace Jam: A New Legacyâ took a different route, launching the Looney Tunes at other Warner Bros. properties. and giving them a more modern look in the basketball game against the Goon Squad. The updates are understandable given that the climax is happening in a digital world, but something is wrong.
No no no. Sinister. The hate. Go back to basic cartoons. âSpace Jamâ is up 2-1.
At the start of âSpace Jam,â Jordan can be seen eating a McDonald’s in what appears to be a motel room in which crowd hits regularly take place. As if that weren’t obvious enough, Podolak then walks into the room and says, “Come on, Michael. It’s game time. Put on your Hanes. Put on your Nike. Take your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we’ll pick a Big Mac on our way to the baseball stadium. “
Amazing work. Newman from “Seinfeld” took them all out in seconds. He wants to go to McDonald’s while Jordan eats McDonald’s.
However, âSpace Jam: A New Legacyâ is on another level. The original crept into the commercials. The 2021 version is a giant advertisement for Warner Bros. Here is a sample of the properties that display:
- Austin Powers
- DC Comics (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman)
- Game of thrones
- Harry potter
- King Kong
- Mad Max
- The matrix
- Rick and morty
- Scooby doo
- Yogi Bear
On top of all that, when James crashes into Tune Land, he literally leaves a Swoosh shaped hole in the ground.
A single tear drops in Darren Rovell’s eyes. Go the brands! We’re all tied at 2-2.
Basketball game sequence
I was hoping this latter category would be a hotly contested, win-win competition, but it turned into a meltdown.
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While there is some general silliness in the game “Space Jam” – this psychopath Wile E. Coyote puts dynamite on the backboard – he mostly follows the rules of basketball. The Tune Squad falls behind, then makes a wild comeback punctuated by Jordan’s winning bucket. (He extends his arm halfway to the basket because it’s Looney Tune Land. The Monstars should have used a foul.)
The game “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is an absolute mess. It is based on the rules of a video game designed by Dom, so players can earn “style points” and use bonuses. At one point, the score was 1,039-37 in favor of the Goon Squad. Dom switches from Goon Squad to Tune Squad in the middle of the game. Uh, sure?
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Similar to Jordan, James hits a buzzer-beater to give the victory to the Tune Squad. Dom throws a power-up under James’s feet to give him the vertical leap needed to end up at the edge or something. I do not know. Ernie Johnson and Lil Rel Howery were calling the game, so it could all have been hallucination.
Jordan and “Space Jam” win the series 3-2.
Putting the analysis aside, there’s a big reason the original triumphs over the reboot: It’s much shorter. âSpace Jamâ has a runtime of less than an hour and a half, while âSpace Jam: A New Legacyâ is closer to two hours.
These are not good movies. I can’t stress this enough, especially for my Millennials. Nostalgia has clouded your judgment. I know they’re designed for kids, but if the goal is to entertain a younger audience, just pick any Pixar movie. There are four “Toy Story” films.
Or, maybe I’m wrong. Moron Mountain commenting on the employer-employee relationship and the pitfalls of capitalism? Is Al-G Rhythm a warning about the use of AI and the true cost of modern technology? Will I never be as happy as I watched the original in 1996 while diving on a Fisher Price hoop?
After a moment of further thought … No, “Space Jam” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy” are just plain bad. Happy 25th anniversary!