The Original ‘Space Jam’ Director’s Brutal Feelings on the Sequel

It’s been a long time since Michael Jordan joined the Tune Squad to defeat a bunch of mean old monsters on the basketball court. In fact, it’s been 25 years, to be exact. Space Jam was a fun family film that blended live-action with animation to create a memorable experience. Michael Jordan shone in the lead role, bringing the same charm and talent to the big screen that he always brought to the court. 

Moviegoers have been anxiously awaiting the film’s sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy starring Lebron James. Audiences seem to be enjoying the new take on the Tune Squad, and it did well on its opening weekend. Critics, however, have a different opinion. In fact, even the director of the original Space Jam had some pretty strong words about the new film.

‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’: Is it living up to the hype?

Joe Pytka posing with a Lifetime Achievement award at the 68th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards
Joe Pytka at the Directors Guild of America Awards | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Audiences were excited for the cutesy fun of the new family flick, Space Jam: A New Legacy. According to The Athletic, the film did better than expected during its opening night, grossing $13.1 million. 

LeBron James is in the starring role this time around, joined by that wacky bunch of loveable Looney Tunes. James and his son are trapped in a digital game world, and they must battle on the court to find their way home. Don Cheadle delivers a solid performance as the villain, Al-G Rhythm. Al is an algorithm that pulls the father-son duo into the virtual world to turn James’ son against him. 

According to Screen Rant, while audiences seem to enjoy the film, critics aren’t so happy with it. Most seem to agree that the new movie is missing the light-hearted fun of the original version, which has been replaced by shameless branding. They’re also not thrilled with the 2-hour runtime, which is fairly long for an animated family film. 

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently has a 27% on the Tomatometer, compared to an 80% audience score. The original rates a 44% on the Tomatometer and has a 63% audience score. 

The director of the original ‘Space Jam’ has some harsh words for the sequel

While the critics weren’t huge fans of Space Jam: A New Legacy, someone else had much harsher words for the film. Joe Pytka, director of the 1996 Space Jam, says the film was so bad it took him five tries to get all the way through it. 

Pytka called the film out on several points, saying it was boring and the plot was messy. He also didn’t like the soundtrack or the supporting cast. He didn’t like the way the usually witty and sarcastic Bugs Bunny was portrayed –as more of a cutesy stuffed animal than the funny cartoon he’s always been. 

However, Pytka’s biggest problem seemed to be with the leading man. According to Insider, Pytka told interviewers, “The truth is that LeBron ain’t Michael.” BuzzFeed News reports that although Pytka thinks James is a great athlete and a decent actor, he felt that he couldn’t match Jordan’s star power or performance. 

‘Space Jam’ was a hit with audiences in 1996

The original Space Jam was released in 1996. It was the first film produced by Warner Bros. Feature Animation, and it was the highest-grossing basketball movie ever. Michael Jordan was a beloved athlete at the time, and he proved to be a charismatic and funny leading man. 

Some fans have noticed that the older film makes more of a personal connection with audiences. It expanded on Jordan’s back story (creating a fictionalized version of his real-life events), using the Looney Tunes gang to bring him back out of retirement. The group recruits Jordan to help them battle the Monstars from Moron Mountain. 

Space Jam also featured numerous big names in cameo roles, including Bill Murray, Wayne Knight, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing. 

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