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Space Jam: A New Legacy

Upcoming sports comedy film by Malcolm D. Lee

Space Jam: A New Legacy
Official release poster
Directed byMalcolm D. Lee[a]
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Juel Taylor[1]
  • Tony Rettenmaier[1]
  • Keenan Coogler[1]
  • Terence Nance[1]
Based onSpace Jam
by Leo Benvenuti
Steve Rudnick
Timothy Harris
Herschel Weingrod
Produced by
Starring
CinematographySalvatore Totino[b]
Edited byBob Ducsay
Music byKris Bowers[c]
Production
companies
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • July 12, 2021 (2021-07-12) (Los Angeles)
  • July 16, 2021 (2021-07-16) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$150 million[3]
Box office$194,073[4]

Space Jam: A New Legacy is a 2021 American live-action/animated sports comedy film directed by Malcolm D. Lee, serving as a standalone sequel to Space Jam (1996). It is the first theatrically-released film to feature the Looney Tunes characters since Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), and is also a combination of live-action, traditional hand-drawn animation, and 3D CGI effects. The film stars basketball player LeBron James as a fictionalized version of himself, along with Don Cheadle, Khris Davis, and Sonequa Martin-Green in live-action roles, while Jeff Bergman, Eric Bauza, and Zendaya headline the Looney Tunes voice cast. Set in a shared Warner Bros. virtual space multiverse, the film follows LeBron James teaming up with the Looney Tunes to win a basketball match against digitized champions to rescue his son from Al-G Rhythm, a rogue AI program.

Talks for a Space Jam successor began after the release of the first film, which Joe Pytka would have returned to direct. Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone signed on as the animation supervisors, but eventually the deal fell through due to Michael Jordan's refusal to return. Several possible spin-offs focusing on other athletes, including Jeff Gordon, Tiger Woods, and Tony Hawk, were also discussed, but never came to fruition. After several years of languishing, a LeBron James-led sequel was officially announced in 2014 with filming beginning under Terence Nance in June 2019 around Los Angeles. After a few weeks into filming, Nance left the project and Lee was hired to replace him in July 2019.

Space Jam: A New Legacy is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on July 16, 2021, both in theaters and on HBO Max for a month after its theatrical release.[5] The film has received generally mixed reviews from critics, who praised the animation but criticized the overuse of Warner Bros.' IPs and having a similar plot to the original film.

Premise

Basketball champion and global icon LeBron James and his youngest son Dom (Cedric Joe)—who dreams of being a video game developer rather than follow in his father's footsteps—find themselves trapped in the Warner 3000 Server-Verse, a virtual space ruled by a tyrannical A.I. by the name of Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle).

After Dom is captured, LeBron must save him and get home safely by leading Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Lola Bunny, and other notoriously undisciplined Looney Tunes to win a basketball match against Al-G's digitized champions on the court, the Goon Squad: a team of powered-up virtual avatars of professional basketball stars.[6][7]

Cast

Live-action cast

  • LeBron James as a fictionalized version himself. James also voices his animated form.
    • Alex Huerta as a young LeBron James
  • Don Cheadle as Al-G Rhythm, an evil computer A.I. whose name is a pun on "algorithm".[7][8][9][10]
  • Khris Davis as Malik, LeBron's childhood friend.
  • Sonequa Martin-Green as Kamiyah James, LeBron's wife (a fictionalized version of Savannah James).[11][12]
  • Cedric Joe as Dominic "Dom" James, LeBron's younger son (a fictionalized version of Bryce James).[12]
  • Ceyair J. Wright as Darius James, LeBron's oldest son (a fictionalized version of LeBron "Bronny" James Jr.).[12][13]
  • Harper Leigh Alexander as Xosha James, LeBron's daughter (a fictionalized version of Zhuri James).[12]

Additionally, Ernie Johnson and Lil Rel Howery appear as the game commentators.[14] NBA players Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, Draymond Green, and Kyle Kuzma make cameo appearances, as do WNBA player Chiney Ogwumike and actor Michael B. Jordan.[15][16]

Voice cast

Additionally, other Looney Tunes characters appear, including Gossamer, Penelope Pussycat, and Wile E. Coyote.[36]

LeBron James had also confirmed that the Monstars, the antagonists of the first film, would not return as A New Legacy would be a stand-alone sequel rather than a direct sequel.[37]

Production

Development

A sequel to Space Jam was planned as early as 1996, shortly after the original film was released in theaters worldwide. As development began, Space Jam 2 was going to involve a new basketball competition between Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes and Berserk-O!, a new alien villain who was planned to be voiced by Mel Brooks. Artist Bob Camp was tasked with designing Berserk-O! and his henchmen. Joe Pytka would have returned to direct and Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone signed on as the animation supervisors. However, Michael Jordan did not agree to star in a sequel. According to Camp, a producer lied to the studio by claiming that Jordan had signed on in order to keep development going. Without Jordan involved with the project, Warner Bros. was not interested, and cancelled plans for Space Jam 2.[38]

The potential sequel reentered development as Spy Jam and was to star Jackie Chan in a different script. The studio was also planning a film titled Race Jam which would have starred Jeff Gordon. Additionally, Pytka revealed that following the first film's success, he had been pitched a story for a sequel that would have starred professional golfer Tiger Woods, with Jordan in a smaller role. Pytka explained how the idea came from an out-of-studio script conference, with people who worked on the original film allegedly involved.[39][40] Producer Ivan Reitman was reportedly in favor of a film which would again star Jordan.[41] The follow-up films were ultimately cancelled in favor of Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). A film titled Skate Jam was in early development with Tony Hawk in the starring role. Plans were underway for production to begin immediately following the release of Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but were canceled due to the poor financial performance of said film despite improved critical reception to Space Jam.[42]

Resurgence

In February 2014, Warner Bros. officially announced development of a sequel that would star LeBron James. Charlie Ebersol was set to produce, while Willie Ebersol wrote the script.[43] By May of the same year, James was quoted as saying, "I've always loved Space Jam. It was one of my favorite movies growing up. If I have the opportunity, it will be great."[44] In July 2015, James and his film studio, SpringHill Entertainment, signed a deal with Warner Bros. for television, film and digital content after receiving positive reviews for his role in Trainwreck.[45][46][47] By 2016, Justin Lin signed onto the project as director, and co-screenwriter with Andrew Dodge and Alfredo Botello.[48] Professional player Kobe Bryant also expressed an interest in directing the film, though he was uninterested in a cameo appearance.[49] By August 2018, Lin left the project, and Terence Nance was hired to direct the film.[50] In September 2018, Ryan Coogler was announced as a producer for the film. SpringHill Entertainment released a promotional teaser image officially announcing the film,[51] with production set to begin in 2019 during the NBA off-season.[52] Filming was to take place in California[53][54][55][56] within a 30 mile radius of Los Angeles.[57] By April 2019, Coogler and Sev Ohanian were rewriting the script.[58] Final screenplay credit would ultimately go to Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terance Nance, Jesse Gordon, and Celeste Ballard.[59] Prior to production, the film received $21.8 million in tax credits as a result of a new tax incentive program from the state.[60][61][62]

Filming

Principal photography began on June 25, 2019.[63][64] On July 16, 2019, it was announced Nance was leaving the project because he and "the studio/producers had different takes on the creative vision for Space Jam 2", and that Malcolm D. Lee would serve as his replacement.[65] Bradford Young, who was set to serve as cinematographer, also left the project and was replaced by Salvatore Totino.[66]

Among locations used for filming included the Sheats–Goldstein Residence owned by James Goldstein, including turning its tennis court temporarily into a basketball court for the shooting.[67] Production wrapped on September 16, 2019.[68] The production spent at total of $183.7 million filming in California, receiving $21.8 million in tax rebates from the state.[69] James held a farewell meeting talking about how he idolized with the first Space Jam film when he was a kid in Akron, Ohio, when the production wrapped, which was later leaked on August 16, 2020, along with pictures of James with his #6 Tune Squad outfit.[70][71] A scene filmed under Nance's direction in June 2019 involving Pepé Le Pew attempting to flirt with a bartender (portrayed by Greice Santo), only to be rebuffed, was deleted.[72] This decision was later met with backlash among many fans, who accused the studio of double standards by removing the character while allowing a cameo of Alex and his droogs, a gang that commits severe violence and sexual assaults in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange, to be retained.[73] The film's trailer revealed that Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam will be allowed to appear with their trademark guns in the film; since HBO Max's Looney Tunes Cartoons, a ban had been enacted to not depict fire weapons due to all of the mass shootings and gun violence in the United States.[74]

In March 2020, photos taken on set and a brief recording of the wrap party were leaked online, revealing that the film will feature characters from other Warner-owned properties.[75][76][77] In April 2020, James officially revealed the title and logo of the film, as Space Jam: A New Legacy.[78][79] Don Cheadle stated that LeBron had an injury he suffered during production, while the filmmakers had a rigorous schedule and shot 14 hours a day.[80][81] By October 2020, the synopsis was leaked from a test screening email by Ben Mekler.[7]

Animation and visual effects

Lucasfilm's visual effects division Industrial Light & Magic was hired to create the visual effects for Space Jam 2. This is the second collaboration with the Looney Tunes in using ILM for visual effects since Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).[82][83]

In January 2020, veteran Walt Disney Animation Studios animator Tony Bancroft, was hired at Warner Animation Group to work on the film.[84] In March 2020, James announced that work on the film's animation had commenced, while also revealing that the production had largely been unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic as most of the remaining work involves animation.[85] That same month, a Warner Bros. Animation veteran Spike Brandt, was named as director of animation.[86]

In July 2020, Dan Haskett, who has worked on the Looney Tunes since 1979, was hired to work in the animation department as well.[87] Matt Williames, who has not worked with Warner Bros. since Looney Tunes: Back in Action, started doing animation for the movie in August of the same year.[88][89] In May 2020, Ole Loken, who worked extensively on animation hit Klaus, announced that he will serve as an animator on the film.[90] By October, Loken shared the design for Lola Bunny and Daffy Duck online, revealing that A New Legacy will stay true to previous designs of the Looney Tunes characters.[91][92] Despite this, Lola's final design was adjusted to be less sexualized than the first film.[93] The film includes both traditional and CG animation.[94]

Music

Space Jam: A New Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedJuly 9, 2021 (2021-07-09)
Label

In January 2020, Hans Zimmer was announced as the composer for the film.[95] By April of the same year, Kris Bowers was announced to be working with Zimmer as co-composers. However, in January 2021, it was officially confirmed that Bowers would receive sole credit.[96][97] The soundtrack was released on July 9, 2021, and labeled by Republic Records and WaterTower Music.[98][99]

Space Jam: A New Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) track listing[100]
No.TitlePerformer(s)Length
1."We Win"3:15
2."Control the World"2:16
3."See Me Fly"2:23
4."Hoops"2:42
5."Pump Up the Jam"Lil Uzi Vert2:15
6."Just for Me"3:37
7."Crowd Go Crazy"John Legend3:00
8."Mercy"Jonas Brothers3:01
9."Gametime"3:11
10."About That Time"3:11
11."MVP"Brockhampton2:51
12."Settle the Score"2:29
13."Goin' Looney"Big Freedia3:40
14."Shoot My Shot"Joyner Lucas3:22
15."My Guy"Leon Bridges3:20
16."The Best"Anthony Ramos3:01

Marketing

On April 3, 2021, the first trailer was released online and revealed a number of references and guests cameos of characters from franchises owned by Warner Bros.[101] Jordan Hoffman from Vanity Fair compared the trailer to Disney's Tron franchise and fellow Warner Bros. film Ready Player One.[102]

On June 10, 2021, Warner Bros. released another trailer for the film, which also included various cameos and references to characters from other Warner Bros owned franchises in addition to showing more focus on the Goon Squad (composed of avatars of various famous NBA players such as Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Diana Taurasi, Nneka Ogwumike), and Zendaya as Lola Bunny.[103] Brianna Zigler of Paste remarked "The film looks like it might be fun in a turn-your-brain-off-and-enter-the-void sort of way."[104]

Merchandise

In July 2020, a hat with the film's logo became available on the WB shop website.[105] On September 1, 2020, it was announced that Australian toy company Moose Toys made a deal with Warner Bros. to make merchandise for the film along with the 2021 live-action/animated Tom and Jerry hybrid film.[106] Hasbro also made a deal with Warner Bros. to make two Space Jam: A New Legacy versions of their board game properties Monopoly and Connect Four.[107]

In June 2021, Nike and Converse revealed their tie-in merchandise for the film, which included numerous footwear and sportswear. The film is also set to debut the new LeBron 19 shoes.[108][109] A tie-in video game, with ideas designed by Ricky of the United States and Narayan of India and developed by Digital Eclipse, was released on July 1, 2021, exclusively on the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Perks program.[110] In June 29, 2021, DC Comics released a graphic novel adaption of the film.[111]

In July 2021, McDonald's launched its limited time campaign in the participating restaurants by including twelve toys free with the purchase of a Happy Meal.[112]

Release

Space Jam: A New Legacy is scheduled to be theatrically released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on July 16, 2021, in, 3D, RealD 3D Dolby Cinema, IMAX 3D, and IMAX, 4DX, and ScreenX formats by Warner Bros. Pictures. It will also simultaneously be released on HBO Max, available for subscribers to view free of cost for one month.[113][114] The film premiered in Los Angeles on July 12, 2021.[115] In September 2020, SpringHill Company signed a four-year contract with Universal Pictures, making this their fourth and final independent production.[116][117]

Reception

Box office

In the United States and Canada, Space Jam: A New Legacy will be released alongside Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, and is projected to gross around $20 million from 3,950 theaters in its opening weekend.[118][3]

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 39% based on 88 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Despite LeBron James' best efforts to make a winning team out of the Tune Squad, Space Jam: A New Legacy trades the zany, meta humor of its predecessor for a shameless and tired exercise in IP-driven branding."[119] According to Metacritic, which assigned a weighted average score of 38 out of 100 based on 28 critics, the film received "generally unfavorable reviews".[120]

A. A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a "C–", writing: "Space Jam: A New Legacy takes almost nothing but wrong turns, all leading to a glittering CGI trash heap of cameos, pat life lessons, and stale internet catchphrases. Its first misstep: keeping Bugs, Daffy, and the rest of the gang on the bench for about as long as it would take the audience to watch three and a half Merrie Melodies."[121] Writing for News.com.au, Wenlei Ma gave the film 2.5/5 stars and criticized the film for overtly promoting Warner Bros. IPs, saying: "It's a shame that the cross-promotion was so nauseating and over-the-top because otherwise Space Jam: A New Legacy has a lot of value. It's more entertaining and better paced than the original, the character designs for the opposing team are impressive and it's even used the Looney Tunes characters in a way that stays true to their legacy while also introducing them to a new generation of kids."[122] Alonso Duralde of TheWrap said that the film "barely has jokes for the Looney Tunes, let alone the entire Warner Bros. cast of characters" and wrote: "Viewers who, for whatever reason, love the first Space Jam may well find themselves delighted all over again, but as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to plunge a beloved sports figure into a century's worth of pop culture iconography, A New Legacy is a big fat airball."[123]

Amy Nicholson of Variety said, "Space Jam: A New Legacy is chaotic, rainbow sprinkle-colored nonsense that, unlike the original, manages to hold together as a movie."[124] Hagan Osborne of FilmInk was more positive about the film, writing: "What is most thrilling about A New Legacy is the liveliness of the worlds created, with each destination carrying with it a varying style of animation that brings with it added freshness."[125]

Notes

  1. ^ Terence Nance, the original director of the film, left during production because of creative differences, with Malcolm D. Lee taking his place.
  2. ^ Bradford Young was initially the cinematographer, but exited the project during production. Salvatore Totino was brought in as a replacement.
  3. ^ Hans Zimmer was initially the composer for the film's score, but due to unknown reasons, Kris Bowers was brought in as a replacement.
  4. ^ Lola Bunny's long-time voice actress Kath Soucie, who has voiced her since her debut in the first film, was initially announced to be reprising her role,[24] but it was later announced that Zendaya would be voicing her instead.[25]

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