Space Jam 2's bizarre cameos make for a tonal mismatch

·5-min read
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Space Jam: A New Legacy spoilers follow (only mild ones though).

25 years on, Space Jam: A New Legacy has arrived to give Space Jam fans more of the same Looney Tunes meets basketball madcap action.

One thing the sequel has added is an expansion to feature not just Looney Tunes, but the vast array of intellectual property that Warner Bros owns. It leads to all manner of cameos and crossovers in the movie, a commercial display that's as impressive as whenever Disney and Marvel bring out all the MCU stars at conventions.

It's no different to what Ready Player One did, although A New Legacy has been criticised as just being a Warner Bros marketing stunt. Our main issue with the cameos is that there are some truly bizarre "adult" crossovers that don't fit with Space Jam's family-friendly world.

There are some mild spoilers ahead if you haven't seen the movie yet and want to keep every cameo a surprise, so look away now if you need to.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

A large chunk of the crossovers happens shortly after LeBron James is sent into Tune World by the villainous Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle). Al-G has challenged LeBron to a basketball game and if he loses, LeBron will be stuck in the Warner Bros Serververse forever, along with his son Dom (Cedric Joe).

So LeBron teams up with Bugs Bunny to assemble an incredible team that includes Superman, King Kong, the Iron Giant and more. Bugs has other ideas, though, as he's been alone in Tune World since Al-G tempted the other Looney Tunes to venture out into other worlds.

They head out to find LeBron's team and we get a sequence of relentless crossovers where Elmer Fudd is Mini-Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Roadrunner is in Mad Max: Fury Road, and Lola Bunny is trying to become an Amazon in Wonder Woman's world.

Perhaps the weirdest cameo though comes from Rick and Morty, who send the Tasmanian Devil back to Bugs after doing some unknown experiments on Taz. (Yes, Rick and Morty is a Warner Bros property as Cartoon Network is owned by Warner Bros Entertainment.)

But seriously, why are Rick and Morty there? This is a cartoon whose most recent episode centred on giant killer sperm, and a cartoon that is absolutely not for children. Yes, we imagine some children might well have seen it anyway, but it's a cameo that's largely there for the older viewers of the movie.

Photo credit: Channel 4
Photo credit: Channel 4

There's not really a joke attached to the cameo – their appearance is meant to be the gag, much like with the other crossovers. The world of Rick and Morty just doesn't mesh with the family-friendly vibe of the movie, so what was the point?

If there were jokes, subversion or some self-awareness attached to the cameos, you could perhaps justify some of the inclusions as a way of appealing to older and younger audiences. But more often than not, it seems it's just to highlight the impressive range of Warner Bros' IP.

As with a lot of the other crossovers during this sequence (bar the superhero cameos), younger viewers will have no clue who the characters are or the movies referenced and without any real gags, older viewers who know them will likely just shrug. There's not really any benefit and the only result is a tonal mismatch.

This is heightened during A New Legacy's big match, when if you look to the crowd, you'll see the likes of Pennywise and the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange. After all, who doesn't want to see a child-eating clown and violent rapists in a family movie?

Fortunately, they're just mute bystanders and don't get a role to play as such and the implication is that the villains are cheering on Al-G's Goon Squad. But surely they could have chosen more family-friendly villains for the crowd and, again, ones that younger viewers would more instantly recognise?

Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

It stands out more because before the release of A New Legacy, it was revealed that Pepé Le Pew was cut from the movie after controversy that the character "normalised rape culture". The planned scene would have seen Pepé challenged over his actions towards women, but it was cut before even being animated.

And that hasn't been the only pre-release discussion point as there was also a backlash over the redesign of Lola Bunny, altering the sexualised look of the character from the first movie.

It felt as though both of these decisions were taken with the aim of bringing the world of Space Jam up to modern standards, as well as ensuring it was family-friendly and avoided any potential backlash post-release. That's why it's so odd that the final movie features characters like Rick and Morty, the Droogs and Pennywise.

If you're going to make a family movie, just make a family movie. Sure, parents and older viewers would love to have something that appeals to them, but if you're just going to include them as another cameo on the conveyor belt, then it's probably best to leave them be.

After all, who wants to be that person who has to explain who that weird grandfather and son duo in the spaceship was and what adventures they get up to?

Space Jam: A New Legacy is out now in cinemas and is also available to watch on HBO Max in the US.

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