LeBron James
Does LeBron James' 'Space Jam' top Michael Jordan's beloved '90s classic?
LeBron James

Does LeBron James' 'Space Jam' top Michael Jordan's beloved '90s classic?

Updated Jul. 29, 2021 9:34 p.m. ET

LeBron James was king of the silver screen this weekend, but not everyone is convinced that he has dethroned the Toon Squad's original MVP.

On Friday, 25 years after the release of the original "Space Jam" starring Michael Jordan, the highly anticipated remake, "Space Jam: A New Legacy," featuring James dropped in theaters.

The live-action/animated comedy film – which cost a reported $150 million to make – had the fifth-best opening of 2021 and scored the biggest three-day opening for a family title in the pandemic era, per The Hollywood Reporter. 

And the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar isn't shying away from celebrating. 


The sequel topped the box office with a domestic debut of $31.7 million from 3,956 theaters and $23 million from 64 territories for a global start of $54.7 million.

Eagle-eyed James fans pointed out that the film's opening is better than the $27.5 million start that Jordan’s "Space Jam" kicked off with back in 1996.

Warner Bros. domestic theatrical distribution chief Jeff Goldstein called the film "the family movie of the summer," but not everyone is on board. Critics have called it "a confused mess" and an "abusively overlong gimmick" that is "caught between the worlds of a sequel and a remake" as it grapples with being a 21st-century follow-up to a '90s classic. 

In fewer words from one critic: a "remake that nobody asked for."

The film received a rotten status (only 31% of the reviews are positive) from a pool of hundreds of film and television critics on Rotten Tomatoes. However, on CinemaScore, the film garnered an A- for James' character depth and acting chops, with some pointing out that it attracted a more ethnically diverse audience.

On Monday’s "Undisputed," Shannon Sharpe put on his film critic hat and gave the film a letter grade, which wasn't far off from CinemaScore's high rating. 

"I gave it a B+ because I think it delivered on what it set out to do, and that was [be] a family-first film," he said. "We understand that family is very important to LeBron James, and it came through on screen. I think there are a lot of fathers, sons, mothers that can learn from this. 

"I liked the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and I would recommend it. … I’m glad I got an opportunity to see it, and I think it’s a movie I think a lot of families can get something out of it."

Shannon Sharpe reacts to LeBron James' Space Jam: A New Legacy ' UNDISPUTED

Hear what Shannon Sharpe had to say about LeBron's "Space Jam" and whether it was better than Michael Jordan's original.

The overabundance of pop culture references is one of the biggest issues some fans take with the film.

"The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Yogi Bear," "King Kong," "The Iron Giant," "Scooby-Doo," Tony Soprano, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, Austin Powers, "Rick And Morty," a group of Slytherin students from "Harry Potter" and a bevy of characters from "The Lord of the Rings" make cameos throughout the film – to name a few

The movie is also riddled with DC Comics references, as James transforms into Robin and Bugs Bunny becomes Batman for a brief moment while chasing a runaway train in "DC World." 

Later, as a crowd gathers to watch the Goon Squad against the Toon Squad, Superman, Catwoman, Flash, Aquaman, Harley Quinn, Bane, The Riddler, a 1960s Joker and a '90s Joker (because how could you have just one?) are seen front and center in the crowd.

Contrary to Sharpe's relatively positive review, Skip Bayless argued that while he isn't shocked that James’ "Space Jam" finished the weekend as the No. 1 movie in America, box office success doesn’t prove that the film is better than MJ’s original. 

In fact, Bayless said the remake is no closer to the original movie than James is to Jordan as a basketball player.

"I kept dozing off because it's two hours long, which is too long," he began. "The contrast between the new and the old was stunning to my eyes because the first one is so much more lovable and palatable than this one. … Because LeBron is a nice guy, I’m gonna try and be a nice guy today and give his new movie a C.

"To me, the new 'Space Jam’ in the end comes off as this big, loud, overlong mess of a movie, a big-budget movie that is trying so hard – tries too hard – to be the original or top the original."

Skip Bayless explains why LeBron's 'Space Jam' doesn't top Michael Jordan's original I UNDISPUTED

Hear what Skip Bayless has to say about LeBron's "Space Jam" and whether it was better than Michael Jordan's original.

Bayless didn't stop there, taking the comparison between Jordan and James off the court.

"I think [James] lost badly once again to Michael Jordan in this movie. … Here’s my bottom line takeaway. … Jordan was far better at playing himself than LeBron was in this movie playing himself. … Michael Jordan comes off as completely comfortable playing Michael Jordan. He’s cooler, he’s funnier, he’s completely in control. He’s clearly the centerpiece of the movie as the superstar of the movie.

"[LeBron] came off as a first-timer in a high school play."

On Monday's "The Herd," Colin Cowherd agreed with Bayless' thoughts about Jordan's effortless "coolness" that put him – and his movie – ahead of James and his flick. 

"I don’t think the world was clamoring for ‘Space Jam 2,'" he said. "I always said this about Michael Jordan: He was the trifecta. … There was also something about Michael that very few athletes have had. Every athlete wants to be cool.

"Twenty-five years from now, we will not be talking about LeBron the way we are Michael Jordan. It's just unbelievable, as ‘Space Jam’ comes out, LeBron's once again being compared to Michael, and people like Michael's version of the movie better than LeBron's."

While the GOAT debate between James and Jordan might continue, the debate on the better "Space Jam" movie appears to be far less hazy. 

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