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Film Review: Space Jam

Updated on December 2, 2016

Background

In 1996, Joe Pytka released Space Jam, which starred Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle, Bill Murray, Larry Bird, Thom Barry, Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues, Billy West, Dee Bradley Baker, Bob Bergen, Bill Farmer, Maurice LeMarche, June Foray, Stan Freberg, Kath Soucie, Frank Welker, and Danny DeVito. The film grossed between $230.4 million at the box office and was nominated for the Annie Awards for Best Animated Feature, Best Individual Achievement: Directing in a Feature Production, and Best Individual Achievement: Producing in a Feature Production, the MTV Movie Award for Best Movie Song, the Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture, Animated Mixed Media, and the Young Artist Award for Best Family Feature - Animation or Special Effects. The film won the Annie Award for Best Individual Achievement: Technical Achievement, the ASCAP Film and Television Music Award for Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures, the Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television, and the World Animation Celebration Award for Best Use of Animation in a Motion Picture Trailer.

Synopsis

When aliens try to take the Looney Tunes back to their planet for attractions in a theme park, Bugs Bunny decides to challenge them to a basketball game due to their shortness. However, the challenge backfires when they steal the talent from various NBA players, turning them into the Monstars. To even up the score, the Looney Tunes decide to recruit Michael Jordan.

Review

A film made to capitalize ideas originally started in shoe commercials, Space Jam is one of those fun, guilty pleasure movies that really isn’t very good. The only thing it has going for it is how the film doesn’t take itself seriously at all, seen in how the psychic in the middle of the plot perfectly sums up the entire story and it’s taken as a joke by every other character in the scene. Other than that, it’s clear that the film doesn’t quite know what it’s trying to be. It starts off fine with a serious scene where young Michael talks to his father about what he wants to do and then takes a shot at a basketball hoop, which segues into a credits scene featuring career highlights. Following that, it’s more seriousness with Michael announcing his retirement and shift to baseball that’s interspersed with humorous scenes from the Looney Tunes that all intertwines when Michael gets pulled into Looney Tune land. All of this would be fine, where the real world is mostly serious with some levity and Looney Tune land is full of madcap hijinks. However, following the aliens stealing the powers of the basketball players, the film starts to really get confused about itself and can’t really decide whether it wants to be a comedy about Michael Jordan playing basketball with the Looney Tunes or a serious film revolving around the talent problems of the various players. It feels like there’s two different movies playing at the same time.

Like a lot of animated movies mostly meant for the kids, there’s some humor in the film aimed at adults. Yet, while those other animated films are able to make those moments subtle enough to go over the heads of thekids watching, the adult humor in this film isn't subtle at all. One instance happens to be when someone watching the game from where the aliens steal the players’ talent observes them. And claims that they’re doing something very strange in his raincoat. There's another instance when the Looney Tunes are showing Michael their gym and say that they have balls, showing off a locker full of different sports balls. Michael then affirms that yes, they do have balls. The most egregious example has to be when the players are seeking treatment from losing their talent. A therapist asks Patrick Ewing if his performance has suffered in any other areas and Ewing gets offended, yelling that he hasn’t.

As stated above though, this film is a fun, guilty pleasure where most of the good moments come at the end during the basketball game when the Looney Tunes are having their comeback and performing crazy antics in order to even up the score. Two really notable points are when Elmer and Yosemite Sam parody Pulp Fiction, with the title score and everything along with Michael holding up Pepe le Pew to one of the Monstars’ nose in order to release the ball. This part of the film also does have a pretty good instance of breaking the fourth wall when Bill Murray says he was able to get to the game because he knew the producer. What really makes the scene is when one of the aliens walks by and shakes his head in disgust.

Apart from the game's second half, the film is just one gigantic mess heavily relying on the commercialization of a bygone era in popular culture.

2 stars for Space Jam

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinions.

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