Warner wants Justin Lin to sprinkle his franchise magic on 'Space Jam 2' with LeBron James
You see what you’ve done with your ironic hipster love of terrible movies?
I was 26 when Space Jam was released to theaters in 1996. I’m a big fan of the classic Warner Bros. animation. I’ve purchased Looney Tunes collections on laserdisc, DVD, and now Blu-ray, and I love revisiting the work of Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Maurice Noble, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin, and Robert McKimson, among others. If you to ask me what televised sport is my favorite, I’ve always preferred basketball to anything else because of the pace and because of the simplicity of the game itself. It’s very pure, and even the worst NBA game is entertaining. And when it comes to Bill Murray… well, he’s on that very short list of my favorite things. Not just favorite people, and not just favorite movie stars, but overall favorite things. That’s a list that includes things like my kids, the Internet, space travel, and the advent of fire. So if anyone should have been an easy target for Space Jam, it’s me, and yet I’d be the first to tell you that Space Jam is a terrible, terrible movie that somehow made all three of those key ingredients almost wholly impossible to like.
Over the last few years, though, I’ve noticed a rising tide of Space Jam nostalgia, all from people who were kids when the first film came out. And these people don’t just like Space Jam; they love it. I’ve also noticed a growing embrace of the film as a so-bad-it’s-good classic, and those people also seem adamant in their love of the film. And now, thanks in part to that constant conversation about the film, Warner Bros. has decided to greenlight a sequel with LeBron James starring this time.
Actually, they decided to make the film last year. They made an overall deal with LeBron James last June, right after they renewed all their copyrights for Space Jam. It was fairly easy to connect the dots, and there were many reported rumors last June. Now the Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Justin Lin, Andrew Dodge and Alfredo Botello are co-writing the film with Lin set to direct. Justin Lin has become a franchise superstar after his work on the Fast & Furious series. I’m dying to get a look at Star Trek Beyond, this summer’s sequel, and hiring him for Space Jam 2 is a smart move by Warner Bros.
After all, that’s what modern studio management is, right? Franchise chess, and little else. More than at any point in the 25 years I’ve been working in LA, everything is about brands. Everything is a math problem on a spread sheet, an equation to be solved, and audiences seem to be just fine with that. I’m sure Warner has already figured out just how many promotional partners are onboard to help pay for what I’m sure will be a lovely advertisement for Warner’s catalog of cartoon characters and the NBA, and they’ll likely pull it off. LeBron James was one of the big surprises of last summer’s Trainwreck, displaying wicked comic timing.
Your reaction to this news will likely break down according to your fondness for the original. It feels like a super-calculated and cynical project to me, as crass a product as Superman: The Rollercoaster or a Batman breakfast cereal. But for those who view the first film through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, I’m sure we’ll hear lots of talk of childhood dreams come true.
There’s no release date yet, but Space Jam 2 is, at this point, inevitable.