Okay, having just finished Seinfeld recently, I was going to start this blog post with: NEWMAN! But then I saw the Wikipedia description for 1996’s Space Jam and is this not the greatest? The film is described as “semi-biographical live-action/animated sports comedy.” HOW DID THIS MOVIE GET MADE?! That’s wild to me. And the wildest thing? Look at the poster above! I’m dying. Bugs freaking Bunny got top billing alongside Michael Jordan. Bugs! I’m dead. Bye, I can’t write the rest of this review.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, at least as of 2011, Bugs Bunny was the 9th most portrayed character in film with 229 portrayals; the others:
793 Santa Claus
724 The Devil
396 The Grim Reaper
325 Jesus Christ
286 Adolf Hitler
247 Abraham Lincoln
238 Sherlock Holmes
226 Count Dracula
That list blew my mind that Bugs is in the top 10 there. And given that he’s been around since the 1930s and is a worldwide cultural icon, yeah, I get that top billing for Bugs Bunny. I love it.
Anyhow, I was looking for a silly, easy-to-watch and short film on Sunday prior to the wrestling PPV and 1996’s Space Jam fits all of those requirements, particularly that it clocks in at a breezy 80-ish minutes. I’ve seen the film before, but it’s certainly been a long time.
I love all of these characters who feature in the film: Bugs Bunny (he was my absolute favorite, second only to Scooby-Doo, another Warner Brothers property; I had a doll of him forever), Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tasmanian Devil and especially Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner.
Put them alongside the worldwide superstar and NBA player Michael Jordan for some whacky shenanigans and slapstick comedy? I’m down. Add in Bill Murray and NEWMAN! and I’m even more down.
The gist of the story is that it takes place after Michael Jordan retired from basketball in 1993 and before his comeback in March 1995. While he’s trying to make it at baseball, the Looney Tunes are threatened by a group of aliens from the aptly-titled place of Moron Mountain (and led by a monster with the perfectly appropriate voice acting of Danny DeVito) and in a bid to stave off slavery, the Looney Tunes challenge the monsters to a game of basketball. They think that will be easy because the monsters are tiny. However, they steal the basketball skills of Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley and others and become GIANT monsters.
Enter Michael Jordan. The Looney Tunes kidnap him through a hole at a golf course and ask him for help. He … obliges!
That’s the film.
The funny thing about watching this 25 years later is that the DeVito character would be a lot different nowadays, I imagine (I haven’t seen the sequel yet). Mainly because in this, he smokes! A lot! You’d never see that now. I also can’t imagine that Elmer Fudd would still be as present with his guns and such, but who knows.
If anything, throughout the course of the film, I wish we had gotten more Looney Tunes hijinks and shenanigans. But that’s sort of the “punchline” to the film. That, in order to beat the monsters, Michael Jordan needs to realize that this is a Looney Tunes world and he can do whatever he wants, i.e., extend his arm five times its length to make the winning shot.
I just would have enjoyed them capitalizing more on the silliness of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner or the smarminess of Bugs Bunny.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the film is how well it blends live-action with animation, particularly in the basketball scenes. There are some scenes that are obviously goofy and noticeably so, but it actually looks like Michael Jordan is within the Looney Tunes world.
Even 25 years later, Space Jam a fun, silly movie that I can’t imagine how it got made and given that it took another 25 years to get a sequel, I guess that’s why. The movie was a huge success though, making a quarter of a billion dollars on a budget of $80 million.
Overall, if you’re also looking for silly, mindless and breezy fun, go back and give this a shot. It’s on Hulu.