film & game reviews, the retro way.
Billy West (voice)
Danny DeVito (voice)
Dee Bradley Baker (voice)
After a Nike commercial in which Michael Jordan interacted with Bugs Bunny proved popular, a movie was soon in the works and the gamble quickly paid off as Space Jam became a significant box-office success back in 1996 and spawned tons of tie-in products.
The project being born out of an ad, it's often been called cynical and that's fair, especially considering the amount of shameless product placement in the movie itself. But what of the film quality-wise? Some critics were certainly much harsher than audiences upon its release, yet others, like Siskel and Ebert for example, were a lot more forgiving so reactions there were mixed. Plot-wise, the film opens with Michael Jordan retiring from playing basketball in order to pursue a (possibly misguided) baseball career. Side note: Jordan's willingness to poke fun at his own career here was a classy move and, while the film celebrates him quite a bit, as well as other NBA players, this helps cement the tongue-in cheek tone quite nicely.
Meanwhile, a bunch of cartoon aliens decide they need to pep up their Moron Mountain amusement park planet so they promptly set their evil plan to capture the Looney Tunes and force them to entertain guests in their park into motion. Bugs Bunny and co. confuse the "Monstars" enough to challenge them to a winner-take-all basketball game but that plan backfires when the aliens steal the talent from famous basketball players on Earth. Bugs then decides to kidnap Michael Jordan and get him onboard with helping out the Looney Tunes. He accepts and, after trying to train the cartoon characters, the wacky no-rules game begins.
When it comes to live-action/animated hybrid movies, Space Jam isn't exactly Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in that it lacks the genuinely good story and Robert Zemeckis' superior direction. The visuals are pretty decent here on the whole, however, despite the over-reliance on wide-angle close up shots and the inherent shakiness of having a live-action character in a fully animated environment. Michael Jordan is no actor, of course, and his performance reflects that so that was always going to be a distraction but the film wisely includes the likes of Bill Murray and Wayne Knight, along with an excellent voice cast, to balance things out. The Looney Tunes are enjoyably loony throughout and their charm is hard to resist so, even if basketball isn't your thing, you'll be entertained by their antics at least.
Cynical or not, and as silly as it is, there's a reason why so many remember Space Jam fondly. This is a relentlessly fun movie with some solid animation and a fair share of laughs. It's not always stellar but it's exactly what it set out to be: an entertaining, light-hearted kids movie that just happens to also be a shallow commercial.