Space Jam is a 1996 American live-action/animated sports comedy film starring basketball player Michael Jordan and featuring the Looney Tunes cartoon characters. The film was produced by Ivan Reitman, and directed by Joe Pytka. Nigel Miguel was a basketball technical advisor. It is based on a series of advertisements for Air Jordan, which featured Jordan and Bugs playing basketball.
Space Jam presents an alternate history of what happened between Jordan's initial retirement from the NBA in 1993 and his comeback in 1995, in which he is enlisted by Bugs Bunny and his friends to help them win a basketball match against a group of aliens who want to enslave them for their amusement park.
On a summer night in 1973, a young Michael Jordan is practicing basketball. His father steps out and tells him it is bedtime, but lets him make a few more shots. Jordan shoots while making several wishes like going to the University of North Carolina, playing on a championship team, joining the NBA, going on to play baseball, and successfully scores every shot. Impressed, Jordan's father jokingly asks if next he is going to wish he could fly, and Jordan turns to make one final shot.
In 1993, Jordan announces his retirement from professional basketball to follow his now-deceased father's career as a baseball player. However, it becomes evident that he is not as skilled in baseball as he was in basketball. Jordan is assigned a publicist and assistant, the bumbling Stan Podolak, to make his new career less bumpy.
Elsewhere, in outer space, an intergalactic amusement park called Moron Mountain faces dwindling popularity, so its owner, Mr. Swackhammer, sends his diminutive minions, the Nerdlucks, to capture the Looney Tunes as new entertainment. The Looney Tunes live in an animated world called "Looney Tunes Land" hidden in the center of the Earth, but ignore the Nerdlucks' threats and challenge them to a game of basketball.
The Nerdlucks steal the talents of professional basketball players Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues, leaving them incapable of playing. The Nerdlucks absorb the talent, transforming into the gigantic "Monstars" who easily intimidate the Looney Tunes. While playing golf with Bill Murray, Larry Bird and Stan, Jordan is sucked down a hole and is recruited by Bugs Bunny to help the Tunes win against the Monstars. Jordan at first refuses, saying he does not play basketball anymore, but changes his decision after he is insulted and humiliated by the Monstars when they squash him into the shape of a basketball and bounce him around like one. He then sends Bugs and Daffy Duck to his house to retrieve his basketball gear.
Meanwhile, Stan has been digging out the golf hole to find Jordan, but spots Bugs and Daffy leaping down another one and pursues them, reuniting with Jordan in the Tunes' world and joins their team, the Tune Squad. Another new recruit is Lola Bunny, a skilled basketball player whom Bugs falls in love with. On the day of the match, the Monstars dominate the first half, leaving the Looney Tunes demoralised. Stan overhears a conversation between the Monstars and Swackhammer, learning of how they gained their talent and informs Jordan and the Tune Squad. Bugs and Jordan convince the rest of the Tune Squad to fight back and the first quarter of the second half allows the Tunes to catch up using old school gags and Acme weaponry. During a timeout, Jordan raises the stakes of the game with Swackhammer: a win by the Tune Squad would require the Monstars to give their stolen talents back to the NBA players, while a Monstars win would get Jordan as a new attraction.
To ensure his victory, Swackhammer has the Monstars play rough and injure all of the Tune Squad until only Jordan, Bugs, Daffy, Lola and Stan are left. Stan becomes the fifth player and manages to score, but is literally flattened by the Monstars and is removed from the court to be inflated. The referee, Marvin the Martian, informs Jordan that, unless the team gets a fifth player, they will have to forfeit the game, at which point Murray appears and volunteers to be the team's fifth member. In the final seconds of the game, Jordan gains the ball and manages to use cartoon physics to extend his arm and score the winning basket. Murray retires from the sport and the Monstars blast Swackhammer to the Moon in a rocket when Jordan makes them realize that, since they are not bigger than him than he was before, they do not have to take his abuse anymore. Jordan convinces them to give up the stolen talents, and the Looney Tunes agree to recruit the reformed Nerdlucks in their ensemble. Jordan and a recovered Stan return to the surface, the Nerdlucks dropping them off at Jordan's next baseball game. Later on, the two visit the incapacitated basketball players and return their talent. The players invite Jordan to a three-on-three match, but when he declines, they question his loss of talent. Jordan later returns to the Chicago Bulls to resume his basketball career.
Why It Rocks
- The animation is very detailed and smooth for both Looney Tunes and new characters that rivals Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- The basketball sequences are extremely well-made and choreographed, making the entire basketball stadium all in green-screen to fit.
- Likable and entertaining characters such as Michael Jordan himself and the entire cast of Looney Tunes characters.
- The cute and tomboyishly beautiful Lola Bunny would appear in other media including The Looney Tunes Show and New Looney Tunes.
- Catchy music soundtrack, most notably Space Jam theme, as it spawned an internet meme where it was mashed-up with other music.
- An amazing guest appearance by Bill Murray that later became another internet meme.
- Come on and slam, and take it to the Jam!
- Spawned a ton of merchandise like shirts, toys, Nikes shoes, etc.
- It was the first ever full-length Looney Tunes movie that wasn't a collection of shorts stitched together.
- The soundtrack was spot on.
- Decent acting (for the most part).
- The song "I Believe I Can Fly" in the end credits is a very phenomenally amazing song.
- It was faithful to the Looney Tunes franchise and the commercials with Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan that the movie was based on.
- There is a nice Easter Egg of Bosko, one of the original Looney Tunes characters.
NOTE: Don't add in the fact that legendary American animator Chuck Jones hated this movie or even Lola Bunny as bad qualities because they don't count as bad qualities since his opinions on the movie and Lola are clearly his own personal opinions.
- Since the late Mel Blanc's death, many of the Looney Tunes barely sound the same, even though the voice acting was good.
- Billy West's voice impression on Bugs Bunny isn't as good as Mel Blanc's, depending on your opinion.
- There are way too many closeup shots.
- Michael Jordan's acting is not that good. Foreign dubs salvage his performance though.
- While Lola Bunny is a nice character with awesome talents for basketball and is voiced by a great cartoon voice actress, she doesn’t have that much of a character, making her kind of stand out as just a one-dimensional love interest for Bugs Bunny. Future projects would try to give Lola a personality, notably The Looney Tunes Show which portrays her as eccentric and dense.
Space Jam received mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes holds the film a score of 43% based on 49 reviews. Metacritic scores a film a 59/100 "mix or average reviews". Roger Ebert gave Space Jam a "thumbs up," which his partner, Gene Siskel, also gave the film, although his zeal was more subdued. Todd McCarthy of Variety praised the film for its humor. He also praised the Looney Tunes' antics and Michael's acting. Although Janet Maslin of The New York Times criticized the film's animation, she later went on to say that the film is a "fond tribute to the Looney Tunes characters' past." Nostalgia Critic (Doug Walker) gave the movie a negative review, due to his hatred on the film as mentioned on a review he made during his early years on YouTube as a fan of the Looney Tunes cartoons himself.
Many critics compared it unfavorably to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a popular film in which cartoon characters and live-action humans coexisted in the same film as well. Basketball fans thought the movie to be demeaning to the sport, and to Michael Jordan himself. Those who liked the film praised the visual effects, which were groundbreaking at the time. Roger Ebert was among the few major critics to give Space Jam an enthusiastic "thumbs up". Some of his readers theorized that Ebert did so because he works in Chicago, and therefore would be supportive of any of Michael Jordan's endeavours. Leonard Maltin also gave the film a positive review.
Despite the mixed press, the film served as a high point for musical artist R. Kelly, whose song "I Believe I Can Fly" became a hit after it was featured on the film's soundtrack. Other notable musical numbers appearing in the film include a cover of "Fly Like an Eagle" by Seal, "Hit 'em High (Monstars' Anthem)" by B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes, and "For You I Will" by Monica. It also became a cult classic years after the movie was released in 1996.
Space Jam was a box office success. At the end of its run, it grossed $90,418,342 in the United States and over $230,000,000 internationally.
- The official website is still active, having been virtually untouched since the film's release.
- It is stated in 1998 that Chuck Jones hated this movie and was very critical about it.
- In one of Chuck's later interviews, he stated that, in his opinion, "Lola Bunny is a character with no future, she's a totally worthless character with no personality. He didn't like Lola or the idea and comedy of "Space Jam" at all". His opinion was shared by Maurice Noble, an artist who created visual backgrounds for many animated shorts directed by Jones.
- Due to the popularity of Space Jam, fans wanted a sequel with LeBron James. It was finally announced in early development by Warner Bros. Pictures in September 2018 with Terence Nance as director, Ryan Coogler as producer (known for directing Creed and Black Panther) and James as the protagonist. It will be released on July 16, 2021.