Debates over LeBron James’ greatness compared to Michael Jordan on a basketball court will continue in perpetuity, but “Space Jam: A New Legacy” won’t fuel much chatter about who’s the better actor. Putting James in Jordan’s shoes, as it were, isn’t a bad idea in theory, but despite the odd moment of inspired Looney Tune-acy, this reboot shoots a very loud and thudding airball.
A quarter-century after the first “Jam” assembled a team of NBA superstars to stave off an alien threat, this one journeys into inner space, while offering even more opportunities for synergistic tie-ins involving the vast Warner Bros. library. (The studio is a unit of WarnerMedia, as is CNN.)
The irony is that the movie owes perhaps its biggest thematic debt not to a Warner Bros. property but a Disney one, since the premise has a whole lot of “Tron” baked into it, with James getting sucked into the studio’s “Serververse,” where the villain is an artificial intelligence known as Al G. Rhythm (Don Cheadle, doing what little he can with not very much), who wants to team up with the King before turning against him.
There is also a big dollop of heart, in what feels like a very kid-movie flourish, involving James’ relationship with his young son Dom (Cedric Joe), who doesn’t share his dad’s basketball passion for basketball, preferring to code and program video games. Within the computer world, James must triumph over Al’s team or risk losing his kid, finding allies (admittedly not his first choice) in the Looney Tunes characters, who don’t share his enthusiasm for hard work and the fundamentals.