Warner Bros.

Space Jam Movie Posters

The best part of "Space Jam: A New Legacy" is when Don Cheadle, who crushes it in his role as the villain, mocks Bob Knight's anger-management issues. Wearing a red sweater, Cheadle spoofs a classic moment of Knight rage. The scene only lasts a few seconds. It does nothing to advance the plot or develop Cheadle's character. But as someone who grew up in the 80s, I particularly enjoyed this unexpected reference to an iconic sports moment of that decade, as well as other surprises not aimed at the film's target audience of kids in 2021.

If you became a basketball fan in the 90s, maybe your favorite part will be when Lola Bunny delivers a devastating crossover dribble and disses the dusted defender with a single word: "Iverson!" If you fell in love with the game during LeBron's Miami era, perhaps the most meaningful scene is Lola playing the role of Dwyane Wade setting up (and immediately celebrating) James for the dunk that launched a million memes.

Classic basketball homages are one way that the film makes sure it has something for everyone. So are lines that allude to LeBron's real-life persona, such as his love for Taco Tuesday. These sprinkles help spice the soup because you already know what the film is going to feature: Dazzling high-tech special effects. Classic cartoon splats, smacks and smushes, including an animated version of LeBron. And, brace yourself for this, LeBron wins the big game.

The only suspense is seeing how many Warner Bros. characters would be crammed into this film for cameos. This isn't entirely negative either because -- spoiler alert -- Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund from "Casablanca" is among them.

"A New Legacy" shares some common elements with the 1996 original featuring Michael Jordan. Both begin with the stars as youngsters, long before they were household names. Both include the casting of the star's kids. Remember Jordan's kids meeting Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck when the two Looney Tunes characters broke into the family's home? But this time one of LeBron's sons plays a pivotal role, as does their relationship. 

Obviously they have different sensibilities, but if "Field of Dreams" is considered less of a baseball movie and more of a father-son story, then this "Space Jam" can be categorized similarly. Dismissing the plot premise as preposterous -- artificial intelligence within a computer server abducts LeBron and his son -- is missing the point. This is science fiction and cartoons. Let's get as silly as we can. (And it's no more absurd than having dead men emerge from an Iowa cornfield to play baseball.)

Maybe it's because I'm much more of a basketball fan than a film buff, but the goal of a project like "A New Legacy" should be about having fun. I had enough fun that I might have taken the Easter Egg hunt a bit too far.

I noticed the Penguin (the Batman villain) hanging out near the bench for the Goon Squad, the team playing against LeBron and the Tune Squad. This version of the Penguin is the one Danny Devito depicted in "Batman Returns." Of course, Devito was also the voice of Swackhammer, the villain in the first "Space Jam."

So was it intentional for him to be near the bad guys?

"I don't know if it was that deliberate," director Malcolm D. Lee says. "That rendition of Tim Burton's Penguin is so, not just iconic, but eye-catching. So we wanted to make sure we included him as close to the action as possible."

Even if the steady presence of characters from other Warner Bros. properties is too crass for you -- Yabba Dabba Doo! -- kids probably won't care. Ultimately they're the ones who will be feeling nostalgic about this in 25 years.

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