Welcome to the ‘Space Jam’

Michael Jordan and Billy West in Space Jam (1996)

Space Jam (1996)

Directed by Joe Pytka

5/10  PG

For me, “Space Jam” is a great big ol’ helping of nostalgia pie. That’s great news for me and leagues of other ’90s kids, but for you it means that my review might not be entirely objective (as if anyone could review a childhood favorite objectively). Bugs Bunny and The Loony Tunes star in their first and only full-length feature film…that’s right, soak it in…alongside basketball legends like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird in what proved to be a perfect storm of genre-merging.

When aliens from Moron Mountain, an outer-space amusement planet, come to Earth to gather the Loony Tunes for primetime attractions, a basketball game becomes the wager. If the Tunes can beat the pipsqueak monsters, they’re free to go. Sounds easy enough to them. But the tiny extra-terrestrials have the ability to rob NBA greats (Barkley, Bradley, Ewing, Bogues, and Larry Johnson) of their talent! That’s when Bugs, Daffy, and the gang must find “his royal airness” Michael Jordan (in minor league baseball, between two of his many retirements) to help them fight for their freedom.

Kath Soucie in Space Jam (1996)

Bill Murray didn’t find his way into a synopsis, but he’s at the top of his game playing himself as MJ’s real-life pal. Funny, sarcastic, fresh, just the right in-betweener role you can act out without being too serious. No need to worry about the Academy or the ticket sales, just a fun movie where you get to star alongside a bunch of animated animals. And he ate it up.

And for a few “basketball Jones’s,” the ’90s NBA stars (with over 125,000 career points between them, an astounding number) weren’t terrible! Larry Bird seemed to have a hard time sounding like he wasn’t reading lines, but the rest had some television potential (MJ got used to the camera when he became the face of basketball, and Barkley carried over to NBA commentating well).

“Space Jam” brought basketball to a generation of Loony Tunes lovers and also brought the Tunes to a large group of NBA fans. Unfortunately, the movie does little for females in either category. The hare-y feminine situation gives us approximately one strong female, the femme fatale (and big tease), Lola Bunny. But for young boys, “Space Jam” has almost any hero you could want!

But parents, fear not! References to Madonna, “Pulp Fiction,” and “Ghostbusters” (and even minor, barely noticeable sexual innuendos that children wouldn’t understand) keep “Space Jam” as fun and fresh for you as it is for the kids.

I remember owning the soundtrack to “Space Jam” on cassette as a child. It remains one of the best soundtracks the ’90s had to offer. “I Believe I Can Fly,” R. Kelly’s hit, was written for the movie, and songs like “Basketball Jones” and “Whoop, There it is!” make this pumped-up, hoppin’ soundtrack as good as it gets.

Its high-flying action, unbelievable fun, and an effortless blend of animation and live-action make “Space Jam” a blast (even if, let’s be honest, it was never really any good)!

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