Personal foul! Joe Pytka, director of the original Space Jam, has some thoughts on the new sequel, Space Jam: A New Legacy — and they’re not great.
“The truth is that LeBron [James] ain’t Michael [Jordan],” the music video director, 82, told TMZ on Wednesday, July 21, adding that James, 36, doesn’t have the same level of cultural recognition that Jordan, 58, had in the ’90s.
Pytka also told the outlet he thought the movie needed a bigger connection to the Los Angeles Lakers guard’s personal life, which was fictionalized in the script, and said it took him five different viewings to finish watching the 115-minute film.
Finally, he took issue with the animation of Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes, saying that it “looked like one of those fluffy dolls you buy at an airport gift shop to bring your kid when your business trip has taken too long.”
Despite the criticisms of Pytka — and many other reviewers — Space Jam: A New Legacy seems to be a hit, taking in $31.7 million at the box office during its opening weekend and beating out Black Widow as the top release. The film was also available to stream via HBO Max as of Friday, July 16, making its high box office numbers even more impressive.
After news of the movie’s No. 1 status broke, James tweeted a link to a Deadline story about New Legacy on Saturday, July 17, with the message, “Hi Haters!”
The Olympic gold medalist attended the premiere earlier this month with his wife, Savannah James, and their daughter Zhuri, 6.
“About last night!” he wrote via Instagram on July 13 after the event, alongside a string of photos of the James family on the purple carpet. “It was a ABSOLUTE SURREAL feeling doing a WORLD premiere of @spacejammovie in which I’m the lead role! Beyond Craziness. I literally would have dreams about being in Space Jam with the Looney Tunes when I was a kid growing up. Can’t believe this, I just can’t!”
A James-led Space Jam sequel was rumored for years before it finally became a reality. The former Cleveland Cavaliers player said part of the delay was because it took a while for him to feel like he was ready to step into Jordan’s formidable shoes.
“In my younger days, part of my thinking was, ‘Space Jam was so good, how can I top this?'” he told Entertainment Weekly in March. “There’s always going to be conversations about LeBron trying to do everything Michael [did]. But I’ve gotten older, and you know who you are. You know what you stand for.”