April 6-7, 2024
The first thing a lot of people wondered when Space Jam: A New Legacy was announced was, ‘How will it stack up against the original?’ Well, as star Don Cheadle told Supanova, the only similarity between the 2021 release and its 1996 predecessor is the fact the film’s main character, LeBron James, is forced to play basketball alongside the Looney Tunes.
“In every way it’s different,” Cheadle said. “It’s a family story, it’s a story about a kid finding his way to individuate himself and follow his own path and his own journey, and none of that is in the first one.
“I think at its core, it’s trying to do a lot of different things, while obviously still centred around the greatest basketball player of his time and a game that’s taking place in a fantastical world. But I think [A New Legacy] is about deeper things; it’s about family and following our path and that definitely differentiates it from the first one.”
The film follows superstar LeBron James and his young son, Dom (portrayed by Cedric Joe), who get trapped in the Warner Bros. “server-verse” by a rogue A.I., the charming Al-G Rhythm, brought to life brilliantly by Cheadle.
“The character is clearly unhinged and feels slighted and unseen, but that was what we were trying to figure out – how to humanise this concept,” he said.
“The script did a great job and Malcolm Lee, our director, had a vision and we worked arduously every day to try to calibrate who Al-G was and figure out what this world was and how he fit, so ultimately, we had a great time.”
Given it was his “first foray into delving into animation of any sort”, director Malcolm D. Lee told Supanova he got a “fast-track education on working with animation”.
“I’m thankful I had the top people in the business with [Industrial Light & Magic] and Warner Animation Group,” he said.
“It was wonderful to experience another form of filmmaking I definitely want to continue with in the future. I mean, animation can be so innovative and creative.”
At the same time that Lee was juggling the technical side of the film, he was also trying to separate it from the original.
“In approaching this film, I knew we wanted to not necessarily make a sequel, but make a different movie in a different environment, not outer space, but cyber-space,” he explained.
“We knew we had a different star in LeBron James and, for me, what was strong about it was the father-son story at its core and I really wanted to make sure you were emotionally invested.”
Helping drive home that theme of family is Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead, Star Trek: Discovery), who portrays James’ wife in the film, Kamiyah James.
“I think that [family] is one of the ways that this new iteration of Space Jam has been modernised,” she told Supanova.
“Family is the root of this film and it’s sort of the heartbeat of the film – and sacrificing for your family and really seeing your family for who they are and finding the possibility of love in that authenticity.
“I hope that that’s the takeaway because it’s not something that’s really showcased in the original. It was touched upon for sure, but not showcased in this same way.
“I love that while this iteration is bigger and wider and more filled, if you will, it’s also deeper and closer to the heart as well and I do love that, it’s one of the things I love most about the film.”
Another aspect that Martin-Green loves about the film is the Tune Squad, aka Bugs Bunny and co, and her favourite member of the team is Tweety.
“For some reason, Tweety spoke to me as a child and I just love Tweety bird so much, and I don’t see a need to change my answer at this point now that I’m 36,” she laughed.
Helping bring the Looney Tunes to life in A New Legacy alongside Jeff Bergman as Bugs Bunny, Zendaya as Lola Bunny and more is comedy favourite Gabriel ‘Fluffy’ Iglesias as the voice of Speedy Gonzales, a character he described as “iconic”.
So, why are the Looney Tunes still so popular and appearing in blockbuster films in 2021?
“Wow, that’s a great question,” Iglesias said. “For me, I grew up watching those cartoons. I’m 45 years old and I remember waking up early in the morning before school and watching these cartoons.
“And I remember every now and then they’d have the Bugs Bunny special that they’d play once a year and I would wait to see that one episode, whereas now people can go on their phone and watch a cartoon in two seconds. Back then it was a big deal.
“I think it’s still very relevant because I grew up with it – I can’t speak for the new fans. I mean, they’re awesome characters, all the characters stand out… I just think they were done so well.”
Iglesias also said a Space Jam sequel was well overdue. “I’m surprised they didn’t do this sooner,” he said, “they could have done this with Kobe and I think it would have been awesome, but they waited until now and now it’s a different movie, it’s a totally different story, which I think it’s pretty cool too.
“I connected to [A New Legacy] a lot because I’m a dad and I always want to make sure my son is being given the best opportunity to succeed.
“You want to encourage your kids and you want to push them in a direction where you know they’re going to have the most opportunity with success, but you know that if they don’t take your advice or they don’t go where you’re trying to guide them it’s frustrating because you’re like, ‘Argh, I see where you’re going and it’s not going to end well – you should go over there.’
“The hard part is letting go sometimes and allowing them to explore and make decisions for themselves and make mistakes so that they can learn from it. It is hard and you get that vibe and that feeling in this movie.”
‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ is in cinemas now.
LEAD IMAGE: LeBron James and director Malcolm D. Lee on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ animated/live-action adventure ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Justin Lubin