Your enjoyment of “Space Jam” may depend on your nostalgia factor and your love for Michael Jordan. Ultimately, “Space Jam” is a serviceable kids and family animation hybrid that teams up one of the most iconic sports heroes of the nineties with one of the most iconic animated characters of all time. Michael Jordan’s popularity was somewhat waning in 1996 thanks to his stint playing baseball, and “Space Jam” is something of an image boost that also happened to be a pretty huge marketing success during the mid-nineties. With toys, music, VHS tapes, and everything else, “Space Jam” was a pretty big pop culture storm that built a larger and loyal audience.
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.
One thing I can say for “Aloha” is that it’s a beautiful film. If you put it on mute and watch it the whole way through, you can at least appreciate the lovely sights of Hawaii and Emma Stone, with her piercing large eyes, and adorable lisp that rival anything in Hawaii. With the volume on, it’s a horrendous mess that Cameron Crowe bungles up. It’s jumbled, hard to follow, and ultimately feels like three pretty mediocre movies mashed in to one trifecta of incoherence, sugar coated by a great cast, a killer soundtrack, and wonderful cinematography.
Director Ivan Reitman’s eighties classic has the advantage of being a film that can be appreciated in the context of its decade, and by literally anyone else. There’s something very relatable to the broader audiences who visit New York to follow four workaday ghost hunters battle a real foe in the form of an inter-dimensional demon. It also helps that “Ghostbusters” stars an ensemble of brilliant character actors, all of whom are perspective heavyweights in their own right.
The heroes of “Ghostbusters” aren’t flawless brooding men, but average Joes with paunches and flaws that make them absolutely relatable. It’s rare we can have a horror film with heroes who look like every day New Yorkers rather than the fit and virile young men that dominate the genre today. The four heroes in Reitman’s horror comedy are scientists and talk show guests who discuss paranormal beings and aren’t afraid to milk it for all the money they can get. But when an actual demonic entity is released within a lonely single woman’s house, the team of scientists becomes “The Ghostbusters.”
When all hell breaks loose, they go from local pariahs to immediate heroes and decide they must take it down the omnipotent monsters whether they like it or not. Sigourney Weaver (post-“Alien”) stars as Dana Barrett, a woman who literally discovers an alternate ghostly universe brewing in her refrigerator, and is possessed by the entity “Gozer the Gozerian.” The being is vicious and relentless. Through her, it plans to topple New York City within itself, and eventually dominate the world. Bill Murray is at his utter finest, channeling Bugs Bunny as the wise-cracking and hilarious Peter Venkman.
He’s the ham within the group who wants the fame and glory but won’t work for it. Harold Ramis is the leader who examines ghosts and their material form alongside friend Raymond Stantz who manages to help invent much of the ghostbuster technology including the “Phantom Zone”-esque vortex where all the captured ghosts are stored. He along with Dan Akroyd’s Ray Stantz perfect the team’s most popular devices, the proton guns which stun the ghosts, and their storage pod which can suck the ghosts for quick transfer. In spite of the great devices, the beauty lies in the mixture of horror and comedy in to a perfectly eccentric mold.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore, probably the only religious member in a trio of pragmatists and scholars, who believes that the emergence of ghosts in New York is a sign of something very dire. While the group relish the increase in business, Wiston is hesitant to celebrate because he believes it to be an omen for a potential apocalypse. Hudson is an important member who also plays the role of the spectator for the audience, gazing at the awe inspiring but horrifying moments in the team’s battles, but standing alongside them courageously.
Director Reitman, along with crafty editing and top notch direction, is able to make magic off of the traditional green screen and puppetry effects. Case in point, the climax, which offers some of the best fantasy filmmaking ever, as the four finally face off against Gozer in the skyscraper, leading in to one the best filmed sequences of the genre. The writing, courtesy of Akroyd and Ramis really comes together with a perfect balance of terror and laughs that compile an exciting and fun genre hybrid rarely mastered.
Never underestimate the power of karma. Don Johnston never will. Don has just broken up with his girlfriend, who urges him to get his life together and grow up. One day he receives an anonymous letter revealing to him that his son, who he’s never met, is looking for him. Jim Jarmusch’s tale of a lady killer who gets a jolt of reality facing his own mortality, is a clever and pretty interesting slice of life about a man whose life seems basically comfortable until he gets the announcement.