On February 21st, the Internet lit up, as Deadline posted about the strong possibility of there being a sequel to the ironically loved (or fundamentally loathed) 1996 film Space Jam. That made the Internet light up for obvious reasons, especially with the accompanying report that LeBron James was going to be attached to the film, replacing Michael Jordan (which makes sense, because Space Jam turns 18 years old this year).
And . . . this is a really, really bad idea. Let me tell you why.
1. LeBron James is not Michael Jordan.
In 1996, Michael Jordan was one of the most beloved people in sports, perhaps the most beloved. He made the NBA what it was in the late 90’s, and no one has been able to match him since, the closest being Kobe Bryant (and, admittedly, LeBron James).
LeBron James is a great player. Perhaps the greatest in the current NBA. But he is not Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan was well-liked and admired by many people, and, at the time, he had stayed loyal to the Chicago Bulls (unlike LeBron who made a spectacle out of dumping the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat). Michael Jordan just seemed larger than life. Large enough to save the world on a movie screen. LeBron just doesn’t have that type of image. If anything, a good portion of people view him as one of the bad guys.
We, for better or worse, wanted to see Michael Jordan on the big screen in 1996. But will people wish to see a sequel the same way in 2015, 2016, whenever this movie comes out?
2. Looney Tunes are once again playing second fiddle.
The Looney Tunes are perhaps the most mismanaged children’s property when it comes to keeping them relevant, and a lot of it stems from Space Jam. In every big promotional push the franchise has had since, the Looney Tunes have played a secondary role compared to someone else, outside of the recent Looney Tunes Show. Even Looney Tunes: Back in Action was primarily a Brendon Fraser vehicle, with the Looney Tunes playing a supporting role, even in a movie sporting their name. Heavy emphasis on celebrity cameos (like Heather Locklear and Timothy Dalton) also didn’t help.
Looney Tunes has been languishing as a brand for years, behind the revitalized Muppets and, of course, Disney’s library of classic characters. At this point I would even consider the Toy Story characters having more cultural impact than Looney Tunes. Continuing to have them play back-up to celebrities is not going to strengthen the brand. All it does is show desperation, that Warner Brothers has so little faith in Looney Tunes they have to throw in celebrities to make people watch the characters.
3. This isn’t the 1990’s.
The difference in box office performance ($230,418,342 to $68,514,844) between 1996’s Space Jam and 2003’s Back in Action shows how just seven years can change the attitude regarding this sort of film. In 1996, Space Jam was a novelty, an experiment, and it had a sense of cheese that many 1990’s films freely got away with. By 2003, the cultural landscape had changed, and darker, more cynical material was becoming more popular, even with kids films. Shrek had changed everything, and Back in Action was a throwback. The culture in 2014 has changed even more so, and the idea of Looney Tunes bending over backwards to include the kind of humor popular nowadays doesn’t sit right.
4. The likelihood of CGI would sap any charm.
It is likely the new film would use CGI instead of hand-drawn animation to depict the Looney Tunes. While CGI can be plenty charming (Pixar’s man films have shown this repeatedly), I don’t see how CGI would work well at all with Looney Tunes. Unlike the Muppets, which has always been live-action, the Looney Tunes have almost always been depicted in two-dimensional, hand-drawn animation, and attempting to CGI them would likely reduce any nostalgia aspect of the characters. This did not stop the pair of Smurfs movies, however, so I fully admit that I may be completely off basis on this one.
5. No one would go to watch this film without irony.
Space Jam “enjoys” a lot of “it’s so bad it’s good” comments all over the Internet. Taking into account that the Internet is only a fraction of those who actually watched the film, the fact that Space Jam gets mocked repeatedly on the Internet these days is not exactly the most desirable situation. The general reaction to the original news breaking of a Space Jam 2 being planned should be pretty telling that this is not a good idea. It’s likely that the film would bomb, the way Back in Action did if not worse, and would survive with a cult following MST3K-ing it to oblivion for a couple of decades. In other words, it is not a wise financial or creative investment, especially as the budget would likely be bigger than the $80 million shelled out for the first Space Jam.
Of course, the above is all subjective, and I fully admit that. But I think for those reasons, a Space Jam 2 is a really, really bad idea.
That’s all, folks.