I am very surprised that “Space Jam” continues to garner such a cult following, even to this day. I remember watching it for the first time back in 1996 and leaving it thinking “That kind of sucked.” Even years later, I remember it as a movie that did nothing but pander to audiences, push massive merchandise, and worked as a PR tool for Michael Jordan who’d garnered some poor fan fare after his foray in to baseball. “Space Jam” is not that good a movie.
Even in my current love for nineties nostalgia, you’d have to argue very hard for me to buy the movie on DVD or Blu-Ray. And I almost bought a bag of old pogs on online, a few days ago. In either case, Warner is hoping to cash in on fans of the first movie by creating a sequel tentatively titled “Space Jam 2.” This installment will apparently star Lebron James, in place of Michael Jordan.
1996’s “Space Jam” was a goofy movie, with a paper thin plot, and lackluster comedy obviously constructed by a committee of corporate suits, Jordan’s PR team, and some writers who built the perfect publicity machine for Air Jordan, all the while selling off some Looney Tunes crap with McDonald’s.
That said, we have our fond nostalgia for the movie, however minuscule, so here are 5 Things We Love, and 5 Things We Hate About “Space Jam.”
5 Things We Love
1. Bugs Bunny
It’s really tough to make Bugs Bunny uncool. Even when swooning over a female bunny, or begging Michael Jordan for help, Bugs Bunny keeps his bad ass demeanor, and manages to assemble his Looney Tunes all stars to defeat the Monstars. Surely, the late twentieth century turned him in to a corporate mascot, but I know Bugs from the animated shorts, and much of his personality is present here.
2. Bill Murray
Bill Murray is an odd ball. He’s a man known for being difficult to work with, and being incredibly obnoxious, and yet he has an admirable sense of humor. Hence his appearance in “Space Jam.” He plays himself as a wacky golf loving friend of Jordan’s who comes in at the last minute to play with the Looney Tunes and defeat the Monstars. Incidentally, this isn’t the last time Murray would appear as Murray in a big movie, nor is this the last time he’ll appear in movie that mixed live action and animation. Murray is a treasure.
3. The Soundtrack
Where do you even begin? The soundtrack for “Space Jam” is amazing. It’s a compilation of excellent hip hop and dance music that has no real relation to the movie but is still so fucking great. It’s a combination of nineties performers that provide excellent music for folks that skipped the movie altogether. “I Believe I Can Fly” was the major hit back during its release. There was also the excellent “Hit Em High,” the Monstars anthem, “Space Jam” from the Quad City DJ’s, “For You I Will” from Monica, its all so fantastic.
4. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan was God in the nineties. Even with occasional bad press, he was everywhere, and he would stamp his name on anything that guaranteed a pay day. Cereal, sports drinks, clothing, weiners, sneakers, video games, et al, nothing was off limits. But he also was an amazing basketball player who was perfect for a movie that demonstrated a fusion of corporate scheming and children’s cinema.
5. The Looney Tunes
All of the gang are here to confront an evil toon menace from beyond the Stars. There’s Foghorn Leghorn, Speedy Gonzalez, Granny, Tweety, Taz, Elmer, Daffy, and literally anyone else you can imagine that make an appearance if only for a second. There’s even Marvin the Martian. I imagine he was hoping for the Monstars to win and then would obliterate them on their way home, and destroy the planet.
1. Lola Bunny
Oh the desperation. Oh the pure awful pandering that is Lola Bunny. Never has there been such a horrible grasp to appeal to female audiences since Lola Bunny. Surely you may say “But remember, there was Babs Bunny from Tiny Toons!” Surely, but Babs had personality, she had comic wit, she had brains, and held up her end of the series she headlined! Lola is there to look sexy, and inject this pseudo girl power energy that is tacked on from the second she’s forced upon us. And she’d stay with the Looney Tunes for a very long time after the movie. Damn you, Warner.
2. The Villains
The villains and Monstars make no damn sense. They arrive on Earth to steal the sports abilities from big time Basketball players, and they want to enslave the Looney Tunes. They make a bargain with Michael that if he wins a basketball game, they leave the planet. If he loses, they take him and force him to play basketball for all eternity. So, why didn’t they take the power from Michael Jordan? And wouldn’t kidnapping the Looney Tunes be easier?
3. Michael Jordan
If you didn’t care about or like Michael Jordan, be prepared to get nothing but Jordan for the duration of “Space Jam.” Many fans remember the movie as this fun romp of cartoons and sports, often forgetting that the first thirty minutes aren’t even about the Looney Tunes. The first quarter of the movie is about the origin of Jordan and how he became so amazing in sports, and then we finally enter in to the actual premise. It’s an exhausting portion of the movie, but it’s entirely necessary considering the movie is meant to be a PR machine for Jordan who was discovered as a compulsive gambler who’d lost a lot of money, and is suspected of becoming a baseball player to hide the fact that he was suspended from the NBA for his gambling.
4. Not Enough Looney Tunes
The Looney Tunes don’t really appear until about a half hour in to the movie, and even then they’re really background characters. Only Bugs, Daffy, and Tweety are the ones that make actual stamps on the movie, truth be told. And of course that awful Lola Bunny character. Bugs is only a plot device when all is said and done. Michael Jordan is the hero, the main character, and the movie ends on him and his movie family. Such a shame.
5. It’s Propaganda
An actual line from Wayne Knight’s character Stan to Jordan: “Put your Hanes on, lace up your Nikes, grab some Wheaties and your Gatorade, we’ll go get a Big Mac, on the way to the Ball Park.” There’s nothing this movie didn’t sell, or try to sell their target audience back in 1996. And it kind of worked, too.