The original Space Jam is one of those movies that a generation of young people, for whatever reason, truly embraced. It's fondly looked back on by many, which is a big reason why the idea of making a Space Jam sequel was around for a long time-- and it was something fans wanted to see years before it ever happened. Now the new Looney Tunes basketball movie is here with LeBron James, and fans seem to embracing the new film well enough. Although one person who is apparently quite unimpressed with it is Joe Pytka, the director of the original Space Jam.
Joe Pytka's criticism is multifaceted and extensive. TMZ quotes the director, who primarily directed music videos and only has one other feature film on his resume beyond Space Jam, as saying that Lebron James simply isn't the star that Michael Jordan was in the 1990s. While they're both great basketball players, Jordan's celebrity extended beyond basketball in a way that James' does not.
The director also has some structural issues with the film. He feels that the supporting NBA cast of the original, including Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and even Bill Murray, had more to do in the original Space Jam and that the equivalent supporting players in A New Legacy are largely afterthoughts. He also reportedly feels that the plot of the original movie was better because it was tied to Michael Jordan's actual life and his return to basketball following an attempt to find success in Major League Baseball, where the sequel doesn't have that same connection to LeBron.
Joe Pytka is even critical of A New Legacy's use of Bugs Bunny. He actually calls what the new movie does with the character "heartbreaking." Pytka says the new movie's Bugs has no connection to the classic version of the character, which is something he says was very important when making the original film.
And finally, he finds the soundtrack to Space Jam: A New Legacy "insignificant" and there's certainly no argument that the soundtrack to the first film became an absolute classic.
Certainly, this laundry list of grievances cover all the ways that Space Jam: A New Legacy is different than the original Space Jam. At the same time, I'm not sure the ways that the first movie handled all these items is inherently better than the sequel's choices. A New Legacy may not not have a plot that's directly tied into LeBron James' personal life, but it does have a story with messages and themes it wants to convey that an audience can still appreciate. Bugs Bunny may be something of a fresh take on the character, but for a younger generation that has grown up not seeing Bugs on TV every Saturday morning, that probably isn't that big a deal to the movie itself.
The original Space Jam wasn't exactly warmly embraced upon its release, and now it's seen as a classic by many. And so, time will have to be the judge if Space Jam: A new Legacy truly lives up to its predecessor.