Furthering the world’s descent into a Hieronymus Bosch-like Hellscape of ceaseless agony, Space Jam: A New Legacy was the number one movie at the box office this weekend, beating out Black Widow, F9 and spending two hours watching a raccoon paw through your neighbors’ trash. The movie has received a lot of criticism for being a bloated commercial for HBO Max and Warner Bros. And that’s certainly valid, but it’s arguably not the real problem. 

After all, there are loads of movies that are just commercials disguised as feature films. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was financed by Quaker Oats and concocted purely to sell candy bars, yet it’s considered a classic. One of the most obvious recent examples of this type of scheme was The Lego Movie, which A New Legacy has been repeatedly compared to in reviews.

Both movies have swingers party-like approaches to swapping around intellectual properties, ultimately in the service of promoting a product; Lego and HBO Max, respectively. So why is one considered “good” and the other is about as acclaimed as an untimely fart directed by Uwe Boll? Is there really that much of a difference between, say, Rick and Morty popping by A New Legacy --

And Lando Calrissian showing up in the Millennium Falcon purely to remind kids to torment their parents with relentless requests for a $300 toy spaceship?

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But The Lego Movie was clever enough to tell a story that completely subverted their sales pitch, crapping on two of the company’s largest sources of revenue; Lego sets and adult collectors. The central message of the movie was basically that you shouldn’t adhere to Lego set instructions, and to do so is pretty much the Danish toy equivalent of fascism. Then, in the end, we learn that the villain of the movie is a Lego-loving “Kidult.” 

The Lego Movie’s popularity led to more than $4 billion in sales, presumably a lot of which were from those sets that contradicted the central ethos of the story. It also spawned tons of imitators; The Emoji Movie, Playmobil: The Movie, and, most recently, Bobbleheads: The Movie, co-starring Cher for some insane reason.

But none of these copycats seemed to understand that what made The Lego Movie work was that it didn’t try so goddamn hard and was willing to undercut its commercial message (slightly) in the service of a watchable movie -- which incidentally, is what ended up selling way more overpriced tiny pieces of plastic in the end. 

Even the original Space Jam, literally birthed from a Nike commercial, seemed way less desperate. The movie is ultimately a commercial for the Michael Jordan brand, but they still begin the story with humor at his expense, playfully ridiculing his baseball career.

Space Jam: A New Legacy might take a few pot-shots at Hollywood but continually tries to show off the awesomeness of the Warner Bros. library like a pre-teen hyping up his girlfriend who lives in Canada. They never humble themselves. The villains’ plan could have, say, involved forcing HBO Max onto everyone in the world, which would have made our heroes’ agenda be in direct contrast to the commercial agenda -- that might have worked. Instead, it just reeked of as much neediness as that godforsaken Bobbleheads movie.

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Top Image: Warner Bros.

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