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By Megan Bianco
Nostalgia and outdated pop culture are a heck of a combination, and usually one that doesn’t end too well. Warner Bros.’ reboot of Joe Pytka’s cult comedy Space Jam (1996) looks to be testing this formula as far as it can go, based on the new trailer for Malcolm D. Lee’s Space Jam: A New Legacy.
But before we could joke about the sequel being an obvious, easy cash grab, some highly distracting and possibly obtuse hypocrisy in the trailer was quickly acknowledged on social media.
Unlike the first film, which featured all the classic Looney Tunes characters, plus some new cartoon faces alongside basketball superstar Michael Jordan, this new flick is tossing everything at the wall and including nearly all of the properties the studio currently owns next to LeBron James.
This would be only amusingly obvious if it weren’t for some more controversial character cameos also spotted in the new trailer. The Droogs from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), the War Boys of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and the White Walkers of HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011-19).
The first two are from R-rated movies and the third from a TV-MA cable series, and all feature graphic violent content. Why are these characters making appearances in a family-friendly fantasy-comedy?
These additions are not only peculiar, but almost hilariously bewildering after Warner and Lee went out of their way to claim the new movie would be more progressive by portraying Lola Bunny as less sexy and more girl power-heavy, plus snubbing Pepe Le Pew’s presence.
Pepe’s absence is not surprising, since the character’s schtick is very dated. Watching some of the old Pepe cartoon shorts contemporarily on YouTube, it is a little awkward to see the skunk so physically up in the cat’s personal space while she’s not interested in him at all, even if the gag is toward his delusion.
For generally politically incorrect content in their classic cartoons, Warner Bros. usually begins the shorts with a special disclaimer as a warning and reminder that the studio’s current views aren’t relevant to a half-century ago.
This is generally a tactic I prefer over a studio such as Disney that has a habit of hiding its controversial material as if it doesn’t exist.
But if that’s the route Warner Bros. is choosing to go with Pepe Le Pew this time around, at least be genuine with it and don’t make it completely obvious that it’s only performative when you feature R-rated famous movie/TV characters inappropriately in a PG-rated comedy.