Monday, May 6, 2013

MR Space Jam

Here's a cult classic from the 90s!

Movie: Space Jam
Directed by Joe Pytka
Release date 1996
Genre Live action/animated sports comedy
Country USA

Remember this? How about this one?

Well, apparently some producers thought it was a good idea to basically expand an humorous little ad into a full length motion picture.

After the gigantic success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988, both Disney and Warner Bros wanted to capitalize on this fantastic idea. Blending classic hand drawn animated characters with a live action film.

The Looney Tunes ended up being the answer they were searching for. Always popular, renowned figures all over the world.

Space Jam. Starring Bugs Bunny, the Looney Tunes and Michael Jordan returning from the ads.

Produced by Ivan Reitman, this project was directed by Joe Pytka. With the animation directed by Tony Cervone and Bruce W. Smith, animators who also worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Pagemaster and A Goofy Movie.

A bunch of aliens, the Nerdlucks, want to kidnap Bugs and his Looney gang for their boss.

The toons appear to actually exist and live at the heart of our planet Earth in a cartoony version of our world (Tuneland? Toontown?).

So our heroes challenge them to a game of basketball.

Meanwhile Michael Jordan retires from basket. (which actually mirrors what he did in real life at the time) And decides to become a baseball player.

Long story short, the Nerdlucks steal the skills of several famous basketball players. And turn into the "Monstars".

The toons recruit Jordan to help them train and join the team for the big game.

The movie is essentially a sports comedy. Despite the presence of Michael Jordan and various NBA players it doesn't take its basketball that seriously.

It's a fun alternative take on Jordan's retirement. And him returning to the game, here with Bugs being the reason for him to go back.

Well, you know it's a film for children, and not meant to be taken too seriously. But. I gotta say the whole premise seems a bit forced. I mean the whole alien invaders-thing. Can't they just "toon" them away, like in usual cartoons? Why the need for the live action crossover, the plot doesn't seem to require it much in the first place.

I know, it's an excuse for the whole thing to happen, but it seems a bit weak.

Anyway, Space Jam has a lot of fun cameos for this type of films. Like Bill Murray being essentially his usual-self. And Wayne Knight as Stan Podolak (Newman!!). And basketball players, famous ones from that time such as Charles Barkley.

Lola Bunna is certainly a strange addition to the Tunes roster. I know how controversial she is. She is not Looney enough to seem like a natural fit amongst the rest and she is not essential enough to the plot either. She just happens to be "there". She was just added here for a marketing reason (like the entire move is in a way). It's a pretty inconsistent character with so little lines, one second she's just a "doll" everyone falls for, the next she's an expert basketball player. Which never comes to play a part in the actual game itself. In the end, she just appears to be a bland memorable part of Space Jam. A missed opportunity.

Since this was made after Mel Blanc's death in 1989, the entire Looney Tunes cast had to finally get new voice actors. After some cameos on Tiny Toons, this is the first time they get proper casting. Amongst those, Billy West took over Bugs Bunny and several others, while Dee Bradley Baker got Daffy Duck and other characters.

Danny DeVito plays the alien boss Mister Swackhammer.

The soundtrack is full of high profile singers at the time and is pretty "hype". I mean, you got R. Kelly and others here.

Despite all the negative reception and harsh reviews from critics, Space Jam turned out to be a success back in the day. They made so many million dollars worldwide. So much that Warner Bros spent a decade trying to recreate a similar success.

Overall, it's a pretty entertaining movie. Not a very good one, at heart. But everything comes together nicely enough to make it a genuinely fun kids movie.

The humor doesn't far that well, the jokes fall flat and puns are all so forced... And the slapstick lacks so much "magic" from the original animated shorts.

It does feel like an extended commercial ad at times.

But, hey, it's still fun at the end of the day.

So many plans for a direct sequel or just a spiritual successor were scrapped during the years. A Space Jam 2, a Space Race, Space other gimmicks, etc. But they always fell apart due to either reposing on a big name co-star or actor. Or just simply bad timings. It wasn't until Joe Dante's own animated Looney Tunes feature film that we finally got something new. Hey, it could have been a lot worse.

An enjoyable silly movie.

I give it:
2 / 3 Felixes!


  1. You don't have to like Lola if you don't want to. But I'll always like her space Jam self, especially since it's more mature, attractive, and serious than her later versions.