Throughout the 90s and most of his career, Michael Jordan was (and continues to be) an icon of epic proportions. From the Olympic dream team to his success as a Chicago Bull to his endless merchandising, MJ was born to be a worldwide superstar. His influence knew no bounds and, after tapping out seemingly ever other avenue of revenue, he crossed over into the cartoon realm with his starring role in Warner Brothers’ very own cash cow crossover, Space Jam.
Space Jam is, by all accounts, a fictional retelling of Jordan’s retirement and subsequent reprisal of his role in the NBA. Released in 1996, the film utilizes the famous Looney Tunes characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E Coyote, and a vast array of other memorable cartoon characters to give an alternate reason for Jordan’s return to basketball.
A success in merchandising opportunity, video game adaptations, as well as box office sales, the film grossed over $230 million worldwide.
On a faraway planet, a group of aliens called the Nerdlucks must answer to their boss Mr. Swackhammer regarding the failure of his amusement park, Moron Mountain. As a means of increasing sales and exposure for his faltering investment, Mr. Swackhammer comes up with the brilliant idea of abducting the Looney Tunes to serve as a brand new attraction at Moron Mountain.
Bugs Bunny, seeing how short and insignificant the Nerdlucks are in physical appearance, decides to challenge them to a basketball game to win the Looney Tunes’ freedom.
What Bugs doesn’t account for is the fact that the Nerdlucks plan to cheat by stealing the basketball skills from legendary NBA players Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, Muggsy Bogues, and Shawn Bradley and transforming themselves into a hulking alien/human hybrid team known as the Monstars.
After seeing their dreams of freedom slip away, the Looney Tunes kidnap and eventually convince Jordan of joining their team and helping them win. After a lengthy discussion with his annoying publicist Newman-from-Seinfeld and a consideration of the plight of the Tunes, Jordan decides to lend a hand to the 2-D goofballs.
Only an equal mix of talent, determination, heart, and cartoon physics can determine a victor in the epic contest between alien and talking animal.
Directed by a dude who was most famous for his Ray Charles “You got the right one, Baby” Pepsi commercials, the film was obviously a cash-in marketing ploy.
However, the soundtrack succeeds admirably and makes up for some of the film’s shortcomings. From the dance-tastic opening theme by the Quad City DJs to R. Kelly’s solemn “I Believe I can Fly,” Space Jam’s soundtrack was host to a star-spangled group of hip hop and soul artists who did their best to bring a whacky film to life.
Despite its product placement and Michael Jordan’s pathetic attempt at acting, the film succeeds in being family-friendly entertainment with memorable music and enough bits of humor and pop culture references to keep the parents interested. While not a perfect or particularly original film by any means, my nostalgia goggles still make Space Jam somewhat easy to love. Here’s your chance, do your dance at the Space Jam, all right.