Kids of the 90s fondly remember Space Jam as a fun combination of the basketball skills of NBA legend Michael Jordan and the zany antics of the beloved Looney Tunes gang. But is nostalgia enough to carry a sequel 25 years later?
Warner Bros. and LeBron James certainly hope so, as a sequel is slated for summer of 2021. However, some fans are already speculating that the sequel will flop — and not just because it’s been a quarter of a century since the first movie.
What’s planned for ‘Space Jam 2?’
The original Space Jam movie had Jordan gamely teaming up with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and company to help them defeat nasty-looking aliens that stole the talents of other NBA players. Released in 1996, the movie was a solid hit, grossing $230 million worldwide. A sequel seemed like a given, but Jordan wasn’t interested and other proposed co-stars, like Jackie Chan and Tony Hawk, also fell through.
Then, the project finally came together with NBA superstar Lebron James, who won three championships: back to back titles for the Miami Heat, and one for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That latter championship was significant for two reasons: It was a home victory for the Ohio native and it was the first championship victory for Cleveland in decades.
When James signed on for Space Jam 2, that finally kicked the sequel into gear. And this isn’t his first movie either: He had an engaging presence as himself in Trainwreck, the Amy Schumer movie directed by Judd Apatow. Malcolm D. Lee directs Space Jam 2, coming off consecutive hits with Girls Trip and Night School.
Time is not in favor of ‘Space Jam 2’
While the sequel has potential, history has shown that if you wait too long to make a sequel, fond memories of the original won’t always carry you to success. Case in point: Tron.
Tron became something of a cult hit in 1982, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Tron Legacy came along. The sequel had a respectable worldwide gross of $400 million, but the movie had a $170 million budget, and it seems to be most remembered for the shoddy de-aging effects on Jeff Bridges.
Granted, there are examples of successful sequels after a long wait like Mad Max Fury Road, but a long gap isn’t Space Jam 2’s only problem. A Reddit user points out: “Sometimes I think people forget why Space Jam was successful, it wasn’t just the fact that it starred Michael Jordan. It was the fact that it came out after the Bulls had just won the NBA championship in Jordan’s first full season back in the NBA after his first ‘retirement.’ His popularity was out of this world at the time.”
James is generally well-liked too and no one disputes his athletic abilities, but a lot of midwest NBA fans resent him for leaving Ohio twice, and his career with the Los Angeles Lakers has been dogged by injuries.
Movies haven’t been good to Looney Tunes
Nothing would delight this Looney Tunes fan more than a movie that really does right by those characters. However, they haven’t had a good big-screen vehicle they can truly call their own. The only movie that truly used the characters well was 1988’s groundbreaking Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Prior to that, Bugs, Daffy and the gang had been featured in compilations of their classic shorts that were often poorly packaged. Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) attempted to put the characters more front and center, but the movie failed at the box office. And that was one reason the Space Jam sequel took so long to get going.
There’s also a school of thought out there that contends the original Space Jam was never very good in the first place. The AV Club wrote: “Is Space Jam a good movie? If you answered yes, congratulations, you’re a millennial. If you answered no, you’re, well, pretty much anything else.”
There’s more than one person out there paraphrasing a song from the Space Jam soundtrack sung by a certain disgraced R&B star: I believe it can’t fly.