Michael Chantiri’s review published on Letterboxd:
Going into this I was kinda scared, the amount of negative buzz from people I follow and respect definitely made me worried. None of you want to hear this but I don't care, I actually really liked this. The original Space Jam is interesting to me because it's a peak example of a capitalist product that is aware of itself and is constantly making light of it. The film was made for merchandising yet the film is about Michael Jordans and the Looney Tunes fight against slavery and commodification. There are contradictions in that original work that I found very compelling, It's a commercial product yet its story is a fight against that very concept. It shows America for what it truly is, a country that advocates for hero narratives yet reinforces systems that control its people. Space Jam is also just a really fun film with great momentum, it's edited unlike any other family film from the '90s.
Space Jam: A New Legacy feels like an expansion of the originals contradictions but reframed in the modern digital age. It goes two times harder than the OG Space Jam. It's simultaneously a product and a self-aware one, not just in the off-hand jokes but in the actual plot and subtext. The event that starts all this is the Warner Bros. algorithm telling Lebron James that they want to put him in all their films. He's a simple pawn, no integrity, no emotion, no artistic control, just a simple item to be moved around from place to place. When Lebron rightfully rejects him the corporation aims to wipe out his life entirely, it's either you join the media hellscape or your whole family will be forced into it. When we enter the Warner Bros. server space it is corporate indulgence all the way, there's no feeling, no soul around here. Everyone within it has been made a husk of what they once was, Lebron James essentially forwards the revolution in not getting his life back but granting integrity back to media.
There seems to be a layer of satire and commentary that I found hard to ignore. From the boardroom meetings to the final game there's a ton of messaging saying Warner Bros. itself is evil (the Looney Tunes turning into CGI is framed as an injustice, not a cool upgrade). This feels like the Looney Tunes getting back their agency in the pop culture landscape, they are allowed to be who they are after being oppressed for so long. This would've been enough but they actually put an emotional core into the proceedings. The arc with Lebron and his son Dom has a clear thread throughout, they are clearly the only earnest thing within the film. Dom has been fully fooled into the digital dream, he's been tricked by the algorithm to become a part of the corporate system (what spurs this is Lebron wanting his son to be like him, rather than accepting him for who he is). The algorithm promises sincerity where there is only cynicism, something that corporations do to their customers daily. It's only through Lebron accepting his son for who he truly is that the universe can be realigned (I actually think Lebron did a good performance here, he's not showy but he portrays emotion with the right amount of conviction and resonance). This act of sincerity allows the server space to come crashing down, when a sign of hope is shown within our pop culture landscape movements can be started and integrity can be brought back.
Sure A New Legacy might be an overindulgent product by a massive company but it manages to take its contradictions and make something constructive with it. Just like the original, its intent is to market IP's/merchancise but the writers make the best of a bad situation. It's able to include the executive's wishes of a marketing fever dream and a work that indicts those very concepts (Even if this wasn't the intent I believe media can have meaning and interpretation that diverts from the artists directive). It does all this and is still a fun time with enough creative visuals, energetic sequences and engaging characters to go around. This is a hill I'm willing to die on, if no one else agrees with me so be it, this is something for me to enjoy and that's fine.