The Relegation of Kids Movies, or Why ‘Space Jam 2’ Doesn’t Get a Pass

Warner Bros. Pictures, Proximity, SpringHill Entertainment

More and more, with one foot in front of the other, the mega-blockbuster is clawing its way back to the forefront of the scene as it feeds on the frenzy of buttery popcorn-gobbling audiences making their way through the sticky aisles of dark auditoriums. Two years ago, summer flicks would rake in tens, and then hundreds, of millions of dollars without even the blink of an eye, let alone both eyes, but it is good news nowadays when they can scrape up twenty or thirty million for an opening weekend.

Such is the case with Space Jam: A New Legacy in its long-awaited arrival in theaters and, as a consequence of the times we find ourselves in, on HBOMax for its same-date streaming release.

With many of the same ideas as the original Space Jam, which starred Michael Jordan, Lebron James’ sequel is a crowded, over-energized, and messy endeavor that relies on the properties and acquisitions of Warner Bros. Pictures in an attempt to create familiarity, nostalgia, and promotional branding as a corporate franchise. On all accounts, these attempts result in a foul.

It wasn’t long ago that we saw something similar to this, also from Warner Bros. Pictures. Ready Player One was set up as a virtual, fast-paced nostalgia fest that, while enjoyable and fun and able to capture some of the magic it was going for, the inclusion of recognizable properties through Warner Bros. fell flat in some of the same ways as Space Jam, without the forced and cringing mob of faces and characters spanning decades.

While fans are eating up what is being served in Space Jam, critics, for the most part, are calling out the movie as it deserves to be. For the former, there has been a shared idea about this being a kids movie and, because of it being a kids movie, that it gets a pass for some of its faults. It is not going to win an Oscar after all, it never was, they say. Why does it matter? But that is a lazy argument. Space Jam: A New Legacy does not get a pass.

Kids movies all too often are settled for being projects and stories that are not as smart, or engaging, or complicated as the “adult” movies, or the films. They can be sillier, nonsensical, and downright insulting because the child probably will not care. And, to an extent, this can be said of younger audiences. Sometimes these things work because a movie should have silliness to it, or its message should be outlined in a way so younger children understand it. But when they do not work, they just do not work.

Thinking of a few recent titles such as Playing with Fire, the animated The Addams Family, The One and Only Ivan, A Wrinkle In Time, there are plenty of movies whose sole existence serves to tell dumb-downed jokes and indulge in unnecessary and unrelenting antics. These movies are lack any true, overarching morals or ethics to them, and they forget or intentionally ignore that the people bringing kids to these movies are the paying adults, so why is it they are unable to be thrown a bone? Why is it that storytelling and character development, that is genuine, are sacrificed?

And, so, with Space Jam: A New Legacy, there is a relegation so purposeful and intentional that it is insulting the intelligence of young audiences and the adults taking them or reminiscing on the original, and more earnest, Space Jam. A New Legacy’s grab for cash, incessant and blatant corporatism, and mind-numbing slouch of a story may bring in audiences and profit, but at what cost?

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