Three important questions about the new Space Jam film

A LeBron James-led sequel to the cult classic is officially happening, and one of our editors has some questions.

Austin Green, Managing Editor

In 1996, the Monstars invaded, and nothing was the same. That was the year “Space Jam,” a frankly ridiculous sports-cartoon mashup movie starring NBA legend Michael Jordan and the characters from Looney Toons, was released. Since then, the movie has both become a cult classic among NBA fans, who have long clamored for a sequel.

After years of rumors, a recent Instagram post from Springhill Entertainment, a film production company, confirmed that “Space Jam 2” was in the works. New Los Angeles Laker LeBron James, the consensus best player in the NBA and Springhill’s co-founder, will headline the movie a la Jordan in the original. Other than that, information is sparse—the post confirmed that Terence Nance will direct and acclaimed filmmaker Ryan Coogler will produce. Still, the official announcement of a new “Space Jam” film is major news and raises plenty of questions for diehard basketball fans. Here are a few.

How closely will the film follow the plot of the original?

Space Jam starts when the owner of an alien amusement park sends his minions to kidnap Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the rest of the gang to make them his newest attraction. The aliens are tiny and dumb, but they also have lasers, so Bugs tricks them into playing a basketball game for the right to abduct him and his friends. That plan backfires when the aliens are able to steal the talent of several top NBA stars like Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley. Bugs, in a panic, persuades the then-retired Jordan to lace up with the Toon Squad in order to save Looney Toons.

Like I said, the plot was ridiculous, but the film was lovable enough to make it work. It begs the question of how a sequel would be handled. Do the alien “Monstars” return, or is there a new threat? And Jordan actually did retire to play minor league baseball, like the movie depicts, before returning to the NBA. Does that mean we will see a similar fictionalized version of James’ life and career? Most importantly, will James do a full-court version of his iconic block like how Jordan dunked in the first film?

Who else will star in the film?

Space Jam featured a cast of well-known celebrities both inside and outside the NBA. In addition to small roles from Ewing and Barkley, among other NBA stars, Larry Bird also had a memorable cameo as Jordan’s golf buddy. Also joining that golf outing was Jordan’s bumbling assistant Stan Podolak, played by “Seinfeld’s” Wayne Knight, and actor friend Bill Murray, played by Bill Murray. Regardless of how closely James’ new film follows the plot of the original, it seems like a slam dunk—I apologize for everything—that the cast will be comprised of A-listers on and off the basketball court.

If James’ fictional self has a group of associates like “Space Jam’s” Jordan did, I would not be surprised if Kevin Hart and Michael B. Jordan get some calls. Hart already has a mountain of experience playing a Stan Podolak-esque characters, and the other Jordan could easily take on an actor-with-basketball-aspirations role like the fictional Murray was. Dwayne Johnson could also be an interesting addition to the cast.

As for other basketball players, current NBA stars are more friendly than ever with each other, meaning James could reach out to just about anyone he wants. The obvious choice to play Monstars-type roles is the Golden State Warriors’ five starters, all of whom can make All-Star teams when healthy. There are plenty of other choices, though, if the Warriors decide they will be too busy celebrating another NBA finals title. Keep an eye on perhaps Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Joel Embiid and maybe even some retired legends from James’ current team such as Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson.

How involved will Coogler be?

So far, Coogler has one of the most flawless resumes of anyone in Hollywood. He has directed three feature films, and all three of them—Fruitvale Station, Creed and Black Panther—received near-universal acclaim. James himself told the Hollywood Reporter that he brought Coogler on board because Coogler’s vision for “Black Panther” aligned with what James wanted to do with a new Space Jam.

But Coogler will only be producing the new Space Jam while Nance, a much less proven filmmaker, takes the director’s chair. That still means Coogler will have an impact on the film, and hopefully a big one. James expressed appreciation for the way Coogler inspired kids with “Black Panther” when Coogler used gripping action, snappy dialogue and well-timed humor to deliver an engrossing film with a powerful and important message. If Coogler and James can do the same thing with their new collaboration, “Space Jam 2” will be light years ahead of the original.

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