A vehicle for MORE 90s nostalgia and NBA players with big-money endorsement deals? No, thank you.
If you are a child of the 90s, the odds are pretty good you have nothing but positive things to say about “Space Jam.” You may have even been thrilled to hear that LeBron James is leading the charge to make a sequel. To which I have to ask: When was the last time you watched “Space Jam”? Or listened to its soundtrack? I mean, you KNOW what happened with R. Kelly, right?
Creepy weirdness aside, I have no doubt that more than a few of you have clicked on every news item you’ve come across concerning “Space Jam 2.” I’m writing this to encourage you to stop. When the movie happens—and it seems like that can be any day now—“Space Jam 2” is going to suck.
If we’ve learned anything from the wave of reboots and unasked-for sequels, it’s that almost all of them have failed. “Ghostbusters” may have been surprisingly enjoyable for the few people who saw it, but financially it was a flop. “Ben Hur” cost $100 million and made less than $23 million at the box office. And how many of you even remember that there was a sequel to “Independence Day”?
And that’s just this summer. You can just as easily rewind the clock to last year, or the year before that, to find poor-quality remakes and sequels littering theaters. If that’s not reason enough to leave the original “Space Jam” alone, here are some other points to consider.
The Looney Tunes aren’t what they used to be.
I love Bugs Bunny. I love the whole gang. Getting VHS tapes of their adventures from my grandmother was something I looked forward to growing up. But where are they today? There have been numerous attempts at breathing life back into the Looney Tunes, but none that have caught on outside of a Six Flags theme park.
The Looney Tunes of 1996, though, were running hot off the heels of “Tiny Toons,” “Taz-Mania,” and near-daily appearances on Kids’ WB. And that was just their television presence! I’m not saying children today don’t know who these characters are and lack an appreciation of them. But what I am saying is that the Looney Tunes of 2016 lack the cultural footprint that they had in 1996, and so there’s a good chance a second “Space Jam” film is going to work too hard to serve two different masters: the 90s kids who love the characters and the 2000s kids who may not know who they are.
The NBA *is* what it used to be—except now, it’s even bigger.
Professional basketball today is bigger than ever. The sport makes a ton of money on live television deals, and thanks to NBA League Pass, you can be anywhere in the world and watch your favorite teams and players. That means there’s a whole lot of people globally watching NBA games and buying NBA merchandise.
At the time of the first “Space Jam” movie, you had Michael Jordan, The Bulls and everyone else. The NBA is completely different today. Sure, you have LeBron James and the Cavaliers, but you also have Curry and the Warriors, Carmello and the Knicks, Harden and the Rockets, and the list goes on. There are so many more personalities and stars now. The Warriors may be today’s super team, but there are numerous others not far behind them.
So a second “Space Jam” film not only has to re-introduce the Looney Tunes, it also has to find a way to shoehorn as many of the NBA’s top stars into the film as it can. There is NO WAY the movie will get made without this happening, thanks to the high-powered agents a lot of these players have, many of whom double as Hollywood agents. (And that’s before we even get to the NBA Players Union.)
If you think I’m being ridiculous here, let me point out that the first “Space Jam” was produced by Michael Jordan’s agent. The sole purpose of the film was to showcase the player and “the products Jordan endorses.” (Remember: “Space Jam” came out not long after Jordan returned to the NBA following gambling allegations.) Now consider LeBron and his deals—and then every other superstar with endorsements they’re going to want to push.
A concern for global box office sales = bland humor.
Big-budget films are increasingly a global affair. Their humor and plot have to be simplified to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, while simultaneously cutting down on translation errors and excising things that might be hilarious to an American audience but baffling to others. (This is why so few big-budget R-rated films get made.) So while “Space Jam” came out during a time when the foreign box office didn’t matter much, that’s not the case today. For those of you who found “Ghostbusters” bland and inoffensive, that’s pretty much what we’re going to get with “Space Jam 2.” Studios need that foreign box office to be strong in order to earn back the money they spent making the film.
The original kind of sucks.
Compare your memories of “Space Jam” to its Rotten Tomatoes score. Currently, the film sits at 36 percent. And while Rotten Tomatoes isn’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to movies, even the audience didn’t like it much, rating the film at 63%.
Sometimes, things are popular because we experienced them when we were children. And sometimes things are popular because they represent a perfect storm of things mashed together in the atmosphere to produce something unique and of its time. “Space Jam” is both.
It’s clear that same storm doesn’t exist today. So trying to recreate it is going to produce an unwatchable disaster. One that’ll leave jerks like me on the internet saying, “We told you so.”
Don’t worry, though. If you remain super amped about a second “Space Jam,” never forget that ESPN made a short 30 for 30 spoof just for you. And if that doesn’t warm your heart, nothing will.