OVERVIEW: 1-disc /88-min./ASIN: B004GJYR0G
“Space Jam,” the famous 1996 live-action sports film, was directed by Joe Pytka. The movie’s combination of NBA star Michael Jordan and Warner Bros.’s “Looney Tunes” led to a box-office smash, despite mixed reviews from critics. As a child, “Space Jam” was one of my favorite movies. I can, however, understand the dismal critical response as several of the original “Looney Tunes” directors were disappointed with the Tunes’ portrayal, stating that the script was misrepresentative of the classic “Looney Tunes” characters. Nit-picking aside, I still think “Space Jam” is among the best sports films of all time; not only is it highly entertaining, humorous, and phenomenally paced, it’s also inspirational and carries the theme of following your own dreams without being burdened by the expectations of others. As an adult, I must admit that I only rarely watch “Space Jam;” for me, it is really just important to have the movie among my DVD collection for nostalgic purposes and because it features both the “Looney Tunes” and Michael Jordan—two highly relevant entities from the 90s.
▪ Humans—Michael Jordan, Bill Murray, Del Harris, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns), Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks), Shawn Bradley (Philadelphia 76ers), Larry Johnson (Charlotte Hornets), and Muggsy Bogues (Charlotte Hornets) as themselves, Wayne Knight as Jordan’s publicist Stan Poelolak, Thom Barry as Jordan’s father, Brandon Hammond as young Michael Jordan, Theresa Randle as Jordan’s wife Juanita, Manner Washington as Jordan’s son Jeffrey, Eric Gordon as Jordan’s son Marcus, and Penny Bae Bridges as Jordan’s daughter Jasmine.
▪ Voices—Billy West as Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd, Bob Bergen as Porky Pig/Tweety/Marvin the Martian/Hubie/Bertie, Dee Bradley Baker as Daffy Duck/Taz/Toro, Bill Farmer as Yosemite Sam/Foghorn Leghorn/Sylvester, Kath Soucie as Lola Bunny, June Foray as Granny/Witch Hazel/ Maurice LaMarche as Pepé Le Pew, Danny DeVito as Mr. Swackhammer, Jocelyn Blue/Darnell Suttles as Pound, Charity James/Steve Kehela as Blanko, June Melby/Joey Camen as Bang, Catherine Reitman/Dorian Harewood as Bupkus, and Colleen Wainwright/T.K. Carter as Nawt.
“Space Jam” opens with an alternative depiction of Michael Jordan’s 1993 retirement from the National Basketball Association; during the press-conference, Jordan announces that he is leaving the NBA to play baseball—the sport Michael’s father had always hoped he’d play—even though Michael isn’t very good at it.
Mr. Swackhammer, alien and owner of the Moron Mountain amusement park, masterminds an evil scheme to increase revenue at his park. He plans to enslave Earth’s “Looney Tunes” and make them his newest and most lucrative attraction. Swackhammer’s henchmen, the Nerdlucks, are dispatched to the secret animated world of Looney Tune Land to capture the Tunes. Bugs Bunny, taking note of the aliens’ small stature, devises one of his famous ruses; Bugs challenges the Nerdlucks to play a game of basketball for the Tunes’ freedom. The Nerdlucks, with no intention of letting the Tunes win, set out to steal the ‘talent’ of the five greatest NBA players. Once the “Looney Tunes” see that they’re no longer posed to play the pip-squeak Nerdlucks, but rather the big and bad team of Monstars, they realize that, if they want to retain their freedom, they’re going to need some help.
Since the greatest ‘talents’ in the NBA are already commandeered, Bugs and Daffy abduct their only hope: Michael Jordan. Jordan is initially reluctant to join the team—explaining that he no longer plays basketball—but once he sees what bullies the Monstars are, he commits himself to the Tune Squad. Even with Michael’s skills, the Monstars crush the Tunes in the first half. During intermission, Bugs takes it upon himself to motivate his team in a way only Bugs Bunny can; he gives his teammates a “special drink” that turns the Tunes into an unstoppable force (it’s really just water). With renewed morale, the Tune Squad comes back to trail the Monstars by only a single point. After taking notice of Swackhammer’s frustration with the score, Michael proposes a new deal: if the Tunes win, the Monstars will return the stolen ‘talents’ to their NBA players; if the Monstars win, Swackhammer will take Michael in place of the “Looney Tunes.”
Now that the stakes have been raised, the Monstars play out the remainder of the game with every dirty trick in the book. As the Tune Squad’s injured-list fills up, they are down to only four players and will likely have to forfeit… that is, until Jordan’s friend and NBA-wannabe, Bill Murray, steps onto the court. Just before the final play, Michael learns that even a human’s physical limitations are different in Tune Land. Just shy of the buzzer, Jordan leaps (in “air-Jordan” fashion) and extends his arm across the court to secure the winning basket.
Even though the Monstars have done terrible things on their boss’s behalf, Michael feels empathy for the abuse they endure from Swackhammer. Before returning their size and talent, the Monstars liberate themselves by stuffing Swackhammer in a rocket and send him screaming all the way to the Moon. The movie closes with everything going back to normal; Michael returns the NBA players’ ‘talents’… and returns his own talent to the NBA as a member of the Chicago Bulls.