IN SELECT THEATERS — If you haven’t had a massive amount of nostalgia to frame the memories for “Space Jam,” then odds are you won’t really enjoy the mix of Michael Jordan, The Looney Tunes, and Bill Murray, for some reason. Without the nostalgia, “Space Jam” is just a mediocre animated comedy that is made by a committee, and used to boast the waning popularity of Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes. There’s also Bill Murray for some reason. Back in the mid nineties, Michael Jordan was sports royalty and was playing baseball professionally; someone had the bright idea to give him a movie co-starring timeless cartoon characters because that’s how stuff works. For all its faults (and there are a lot of them) “Space Jam” is a perfect storm of urban appeal, and family appeal that managed to make it a veritable marketing juggernaut in 1996.
It had a wonderful merchandise line, an excellent soundtrack that accompanied it and a lot of popularity with kids growing up in that period. Jordan was still king (he danced with Michael Jackson!) and the Looney Tunes were very appealing, even in that time where Warner was looking for any reason to revive them. There’s also Bill Murray for some reason. Hell even I was caught up in the storm, consuming the toys and the ace soundtrack on CD. “Space Jam” is one half a promotional tool for Michael Jordan and one half an animated adventure with the Looney Tunes. After working hard to obtain god-like status as a sports star, Michael Jordan is called upon by the Looney Tunes to help them and keep them from being destroyed by aliens named the Nerdlucks. The Nerdlucks are a group of small alien beings who want to kidnap the Looney tunes and make them perform in an amusement park in space.
It’s an odd bit of commentary on corporate greed in a movie that was practically built by a group of tightly suited CEO’s but hey, I digress. When Michael Jordan agrees to help the Looney Tunes and refuses to be pushed around by them, the Nerdlucks change their plans by insisting Jordan and the Toons play an all stakes basketball game against them. If they lose, the Toons along with Jordan and have to spend eternity in the space amusement park performing for tourists. Little do they know the Nerdlucks steal the talent of a bunch of NBA all-stars, turning them in to monstrous, large, and very talented basketball playing beings known as the Monstars, that even Jordan is intimidated by. Beyond that, there isn’t much of a plot save for a lot of pandering to sports fans and a broader audience. The first half hour of the movie is Jordan’s life story, and the Toons even get to meet his fictional movie family.
There’s also the introduction of truly awful Looney Tunes character Lola Bunny, a sexualized female clone of Bugs who is obviously injected to sell more toys. Beyond that, “Space Jam” is still an entertaining if surreal meeting of big nineties entities. There’s Looney Tunes, Michael Jordan, the NBA, Wayne Knight from “Seinfeld,” and yes, Bill Murray for some reason. Sans nostalgia it’s serviceable kids’ entertainment at best with a paper thin plot, but a lot of Looney Tunes antics.
Will be re-released for its 20th Anniversary on November 13th and 16th in more than 450 theaters across the U.S. Look for showtimes on Fathom Events.