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The Original "Space Jam" Director Gave His Thoughts On The Sequel And Let's Just Say His Review Was Pretty Damn Harsh

"The truth is that LeBron ain't Michael."

Posted on July 22, 2021, at 9:33 a.m. ET

The much-anticipated Space Jam sequel is receiving pretty solid feedback where audiences are concerned, but one person who doesn't exactly have a glowing review? The director of the original, Joe Pytka.

Warner Bros.

Space Jam: A New Legacy sees basketball superstar and legend LeBron James step into the role made famous by Michael Jordan back in 1996.

Warner Bros.

The movie serves as a stand-alone sequel to the original movie and follows a similar premise to its predecessor. The cast this time around includes Zendaya as the voice of Lola Bunny and Don Cheadle as villain Al-G Rhythm. 

Opinion on the movie so far seems pretty divided, with critics not overly impressed, while casual audiences are enjoying the fresh take on a nostalgic throwback.

Warner Bros.

At the time of writing, A New Legacy had a critics rating of 31% and an audience rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. In comparison, the original Space Jam has a slightly higher critics rating of 44% and a lower audience rating of 66%.

However, it seems that the 1996 director isn't exactly a fan of the reboot, claiming that it took five sittings to finish the movie, bluntly adding: "The truth is that LeBron ain't Michael."

Warner Bros.

According to TMZ, Joe apparently thinks LeBron is an "incredible athlete and a very good actor" but pales in comparison to Michael where Space Jam is concerned, mostly because the original tied into MJ's real life.

Eugene Garcia / AFP via Getty Images

The premise of the first movie saw Michael retire to play baseball, something which mirrored reality at the time. Because of that, in TMZ's words, Joe thinks A New Legacy is "missing a personal connection."

As well as this, Joe apparently thinks the reboot has an "insignificant" soundtrack compared to its six-times-platinum predecessor, a less superior supporting cast, and went as far as to label this iteration of Bugs Bunny "heartbreaking."

Warner Bros.

According to TMZ, Joe thinks the iconic character "has no connection to previous depictions," with the director adding: "[Bugs Bunny] 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."

But this isn't the first time that Joe has criticized the Space Jam sequel — he actually did it years before the movie even came out.

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for DGA

Back in 2016, after rumblings of a sequel starring LeBron surfaced, Joe slammed the idea, telling Entertainment Weekly: "I think it's ridiculous to try and make a different movie out of it." 

"I can't see it. I can't imagine how it could be what [the original] film was," he said. "Not that Space Jam is a great movie, but it had something that touched that period of time because of who those athletes were and it doesn’t exist anymore."

In fact, Joe apparently went as far as to turn down the offer to helm a sequel with a different NBA star before LeBron and A New Legacy came into the picture.

Charlotte Observer / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

According to the same report, representatives for Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard put forward the proposal of another Space Jam movie, which Joe apparently declined because it wouldn't work without the star power of someone like Michael Jordan.

"I've worked with LeBron and I've worked with Steph Curry, and as good a player as LeBron is and as good a player as Steph Curry is, they're not Michael Jordan,” he said in 2016. "We will never see another player like him. He was a transcendent figure, much like Muhammad Ali. He was beyond his sport. These guys aren't."

And last year, Joe had much the same to say about the sequel, explaining that, in his opinion, "there will never be another Michael Jordan."

Evan Agostini / Getty Images

"LeBron is a fantastic basketball player, he's a top-20 basketball player of all time," he told EW last year. "He is not Michael. Maybe they should call it something else. They should not call it Space Jam 2, or whatever. It should be another movie. It's not Space JamSpace Jam is Michael Jordan."

He added: "No matter how much LeBron wants to be a great player — and he is a great player — he's not Michael Jordan."

LeBron himself has spoken about the comparisons before, having previously turned down the leading role because he thought it was too early in his career.

Matt Winkelmeyer / WireImage

"In my younger days, part of my thinking was, 'Space Jam was so good, how can I top this?'" he explained in a cover interview with Entertainment Weekly earlier this year. "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."

At the time, LeBron admitted that he hadn't spoken to Michael about the new movie, but hoped for his approval if he watched it. "It's something Mike created and is his," he said. "I held that with a lot of responsibility."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.