Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Pytka|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Sheldon Kahn|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||87 minutes|
Space Jam is a 1996 American live-action/animated sports family/comedy film starring Michael Jordan and featuring the Looney Tunes characters. The film was produced by Ivan Reitman, and directed by Joe Pytka, with Tony Cervone and Bruce W. Smith directing the animation.
A fictional account of Jordan's first retirement from the NBA, the film was released theatrically by Warner Bros. under the Family Entertainment brand label on November 15, 1996. It plays out as an alternate story of Jordan's initial return to basketball, this time with him being inspired by Bugs Bunny and friends. Despite mixed critical reviews, Space Jam opened at #1 in the US and grossed over $230 million worldwide.
In 1993, professional basketball player Michael Jordan announces his retirement from the NBA to follow in his father's footsteps and turns to a career in baseball. Despite his popularity, Jordan's talent for baseball is nowhere near his talent for basketball. Meanwhile the Nerdlucks, a group of criminal aliens led by their boss Mister Swackhammer (voiced by Danny DeVito), plot to capture the Looney Tunes, who really exist in a secret animated world called Looney Tune Land (hidden at the center of the Earth), and make them their newest attractions at Moron Mountain, a failing amusement park. Swackhammer believes enslaving the Tunes in this way will bring in more customers and save Moron Mountain from foreclosure.
They arrive in Tune Land and since the aliens aren't very intelligent or tall, the Tunes bargain for their freedom by challenging the Nerdlucks to a basketball game. To ensure their victory, the Nerdlucks return to Earth and steal the talents of Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, Muggsy Bogues, and Shawn Bradley, who are rendered incapable of playing basketball as a result. Through their basketball, the Nerdlucks absorbed the stolen talent into their bodies, and transform into gigantic creatures—now called the Monstars—that the Looney Tunes are unable to defeat.
To help the Tunes win the game, Bugs Bunny abducts and recruits Michael Jordan, who reluctantly agrees to help after the Monstars squash him into the shape of a basketball and bounce him around like one. A new arrival named Lola Bunny, on whom Bugs develops a crush, is added to the team thanks to her talent. Bugs and Daffy Duck go to Jordan's house to collect what he needs to play, barely dodging his family dog Charles. Jordan's publicist, Stan Podolak (Wayne Knight), sees Bugs and Daffy return to Tune Land, follows them, and stays to support Jordan, whose team will be called the Tune Squad.
Back on Earth, the sudden inability of five top NBA players to play basketball captures the attention of the media—and the rest of the NBA—as more and more NBA teams refuse to take the court, fearing the same phenomenon will attack them. The five NBA players themselves go through a series of physical, medical, psychological and spiritual tests to figure out why they have no talent anymore, to no avail. Eventually all NBA stadiums are quarantined and the season is declared officially over until further notice.
Back in Looney Tune Land, the two teams take the court. Despite Jordan's leadership, the Monstars dominate the first half of the game. Stan sneaks into the Monstars' locker room and overhears them talking about how they stole the talent from the NBA players, but he is detected despite hiding in a locker and scorched as a result. Stan then informs Jordan and the Tune Squad that the Monstars stole the talent from the NBA players. Bugs then motivates the team with a "special drink" and the Monstars' commanding lead is reduced to a significantly smaller margin. Seeing Swackhammer angry that the Monstars did not steal Jordan's talent, Jordan takes the chance to raise the stakes. If the Tune Squad wins, the Monstars must give the NBA players their talent back, but if they lose, then Swackhammer is to spare the Looney Tunes in exchange for Jordan. He readily accepts it and Bugs tries to talk him out of it, all the while being aware of what it means if Jordan is subjected to humiliation on Moron Mountain for all time.
As the game resumes, the Monstars, under orders from Swackhammer, begin playing even dirtier than before. As a result, the Looney Tunes are injured, one by one, until only Jordan, Bugs, Lola, and Daffy are left, leaving them short one player. In the process, Bugs saves Lola from being squashed by one of the Monstars, which fills Lola with gratitude, and she kisses him. Reluctantly, Jordan puts Stan in the game, and though he is quickly taken out of action, he manages to bring the Monstar's lead down to one. With 10 seconds left, Marvin the Martian, the referee, tells them that if there is no fifth player, the team will forfeit the game. At the last second, Bill Murray, who had played golf with Jordan earlier in the film, appears in the stadium and joins the team, breaking the fourth wall along the way, as Swackhammer quips, "I didn't know Dan Aykroyd was in this picture," referring to Murray's co-star from Ghostbusters.
With only seconds left, Murray pulls some clever manueuvering and gets the ball to Jordan. Extending his arm to superhuman lengths (since the laws of physics work differently in Tune Land), Jordan makes the basket and wins the game. Although Murray has always dreamed of being an NBA player, and Jordan is impressed with his skills, Murray decides to retire from basketball forever. Jordan then helps the Monstars realize that they're bigger than Mister Swackhammer, who confronts them for losing. Fed up with their abusive boss, the Monstars tie him up to a rocket and send him to the moon. At Jordan's request, they reluctantly return the stolen talent to the other players by transferring them to a basketball, which is how they stored the stolen talent earlier in the film. This reverts the Monstars back to the tiny Nerdlucks. Refusing to return to Moron Mountain, the Nerdlucks decide to stay with the Looney Tunes, who only agree if the Nerdlucks can prove themselves to be 'Looney', which they arguably complete on the spot. As Jordan leaves, he tells Bugs to stay out of trouble. Bugs assures him he will and shares a kiss with Lola.
After Jordan and Stan return to Earth in the Nerdlucks' spaceship, Jordan makes a dramatic appearance with Stan at a baseball game to the cheers of the audience, despite being late. The next day, Jordan and Stan give the stolen talent back to the NBA players, who immediately regain their lost skills. Jordan is later prompted by his rivals to return to the NBA, mirroring his real-life comeback with the Chicago Bulls.
- Michael Jordan as himself, a professional basketball player who retires from the NBA to pursue a career in baseball, which is what his father wanted him to do, but returns to basketball in the end.
- Brandon Hammond as young Michael Jordan.
- Wayne Knight as Stanley "Stan" Podolak, a publicist who makes sure nobody bothers Michael Jordan.
- Theresa Randle as Juanita Jordan, Michael Jordan's supportive wife. The character is based on Jordan's real life wife at the time.
- Bill Murray as himself, one of Michael Jordan's friends and an aspiring basketball player, though Jordan doubts his abilities. Following his play with the Tune Squad, Murray impresses Jordan but decides to retire while still "on top and undefeated."
- Larry Bird as himself, one of Michael Jordan's friends and golfing partners. He crushes Bill Murray's dream of playing in the NBA.
- Thom Barry as James R. Jordan, Sr., Michael Jordan's father.
- Manner Washington as Jeffrey Jordan, Michael Jordan's older son.
- Eric Gordon as Marcus Jordan, Michael Jordan's younger son.
- Penny Bae Bridges as Jasmine Jordan, Michael Jordan's daughter.
- Dan Castellaneta as male New York Knicks fan
- Patricia Heaton as female New York Knicks fan
- Del Harris, NBA coach, as himself
- Charles Barkley as himself, of the Phoenix Suns, who gets his talent stolen by Pound.
- Patrick Ewing as himself, of the New York Knicks, who gets his talent stolen by Bang.
- Shawn Bradley as himself, of the Philadelphia 76ers, who gets his talent stolen by Blanko.
- Larry Johnson as himself, of the Charlotte Hornets, who gets his talent stolen by Bupkus.
- Muggsy Bogues as himself, of the Charlotte Hornets, who gets his talent stolen by Nawt.
Of the five NBA players whose talents were stolen by the Nerdlucks, three of them were playing for different teams in real life by the time the film was released: Barkley was playing for the Houston Rockets, Bradley for the New Jersey Nets, and Johnson now a teammate of Ewing's on the Knicks.
Because the movie was made after the death of Mel Blanc in 1989, the character voices he originated were performed by other actors:
- Billy West provides the voices of:
- Dee Bradley Baker provides the voices of:
- Bob Bergen provides the voices of:
- Bill Farmer provides the voices of:
- June Foray (the only original Looney Tunes voice actor in the movie other than Stan Freberg) provides the voice of:
- Stan Freberg provides the voice of Chester the Terrier, although uncredited.
- Maurice LaMarche provides the voice of Pepé Le Pew.
- Colleen Wainwright provides the voice of Sniffles. Wainright also voiced Nerdluck Nawt.
- Kath Soucie provides the voice of Lola Bunny, a female rabbit who plays for the Tune Squad. Lola is a new character introduced in this film.
- Frank Welker provides the voice for Charles, Michael's pet bulldog who menaces both Bugs and Daffy when they are in Michael's house. Welker also voiced Barnyard Dawg, although uncredited.
- Danny DeVito provides the voice of Mister Swackhammer, the proprietor of the theme park "Moron Mountain", for which he seeks new attractions to save his failing business. He's also the film's main antagonist.
The voices of the Nerdlucks are provided by Jocelyn Blue (Pound), Charity James (Blanko), June Melby (Bang), Catherine Reitman (Bupkus), and Colleen Wainwright (Nawt); the voices of the Monstars are provided by Darnell Suttles (Pound), Steve Kehela (Blanko), Joey Camen (Bang), Dorian Harewood (Bupkus), and T.K. Carter (Nawt).
The soundtrack sold enough albums to be certified as 6x Platinum. It also served as a high point for musical artist R. Kelly, whose song "I Believe I Can Fly" not only was a hit, but earned him two Grammy Awards. Other tracks included a cover of Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle" (by Seal), "Hit 'Em High (The Monstars' Anthem)" (by B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man), "Basketball Jones" (by Chris Rock & Barry White), and "For You I Will" (by Monica). The movie's title song was performed by the Quad City DJ's.
The film was released on VHS, DVD, and Laserdisc on March 11, 1997 (the VHS version was sold with a collector's coin included). On October 28, 2003 the film was released as a 2-disc special edition DVD including newly made extras such as a commentary track and a featurette. On November 6, 2007 the movie was featured as one of the films in Warner Brothers's 4-Film Favorites: Family Comedies collection DVD (The other 3 films being Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Osmosis Jones, and Funky Monkey). On February 8, 2011 the first disc of the previous 2-disc edition was released by itself in a movie only edition DVD, and later that same year on October 4, 2011 the film was released for the first time in widescreen HD on Blu-ray which, save for an hour of classic Looney Tunes shorts, ported over all the extras from the 2003 2-disc edition DVD.
Toys were released coinciding with the film, such as Happy Meal toys, Action Figures and Stuffed Toys.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 35%, based on 49 reviews, with an average rating of 5.1/10. The site's consensus reads, "A harmless mishmash of basketball and animation that'll entertain kids but leave adults less than thrilled."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave Space Jam a thumbs up, as did Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, although his zeal was more subdued. In his print review, Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 stars out of 4, noting, "Space Jam is a happy marriage of good ideas--three films for the price of one, giving us a comic treatment of the career adventures of Michael Jordan, crossed with a Looney Tunes cartoon and some showbiz warfare. ... the result is delightful, a family movie in the best sense (which means the adults will enjoy it, too)." Siskel focused much of his praise on Jordan's performance, saying, "He wisely accepted as a first movie a script that builds nicely on his genial personality in an assortment of TV ads. The sound bites are just a little longer." Leonard Maltin also gave the film a positive review (3 stars), stating, "Jordan is very engaging, the vintage characters perform admirably ... and the computer-generated special effects are a collective knockout." Todd McCarthy of Variety praised the film for its humor. He also praised the Looney Tunes' antics and Jordan's acting.
In the middle of road in terms of reviews, 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." Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune complained about some aspects of the movie, stating, "...we don't get the co-stars' best stuff. Michael doesn't soar enough. The Looney Tuners don't pulverize us the way they did when Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng or Bob Clampett were in charge." Yet overall he also liked the film, giving it 3 stars and saying: "Is it cute? Yes. Is it a crowd-pleaser? Yup. Is it classic? Nope. (Though it could have been.)"
Other critics were less than kind. TV Guide gave the movie only 2 stars, calling it a "cynical attempt to cash in on the popularity of Warner Bros. cartoon characters and basketball player Michael Jordan, inspired by a Nike commercial." Margaret A. McGurk of The Cincinnati Enquirer gave the film 2 1/2 stars, saying, "Technical spectacle amounts do nothing without a good story."
Veteran Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies director Chuck Jones was highly critical of the film. In a 1998 interview, he expressed his views that the film was "terrible" and said, as a man who worked with the characters for almost thirty years, the story was deeply flawed. "I can tell you, with the utmost confidence," he said, "Porky Pig would never say 'I think I wet myself'". He also added that, were the film more true to the source material, Bugs Bunny would not have incorporated the help of Jordan or the other Looney Tunes characters to defeat the Nerdlucks. "Bugs wouldn't have needed anyone's help," he said "and moreover, it wouldn't have taken him an hour and a half. Those aliens, whether they were tiny or colossal, would've been dealt with in short order come the seven minute mark."
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. It is the highest grossing basketball movie of all time.
- 1997 and 1998 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards
- 1997 Annie Awards
- 1998 Grammy Awards
- 1997 Satellite Awards
- 1998 World Animation Celebration
- Won: Best Use of Animation in a Motion Picture Trailer
- 1997 Young Artist Awards
- Nomination: Best Family Feature- Animation or Special Effects
In other media
The Monstars make a cameo in the Pinky and the Brain / Animaniacs episode "Star Warners" (a parody of Star Wars). Jordan himself, who was a spokesman for MCI Communications before the film was made, would appear with the Looney Tunes characters (as "his Space Jam buddies") in several MCI commercials for several years after the film was released before MCI merged with WorldCom and subsequently Verizon Communications.
In February 2014, Warner Bros. announced a sequel, set to star professional basketball player LeBron James. Charlie Ebersol will produce through his production company, The Company, with a script by his brother, Willie Ebersol. Jon Berg will executive produce. Representatives of James denied the claim that he would be involved, but rumor has it that it may still be in development.
In May 2014, Lebron was quoted as saying, "I've always loved Space Jam. It was one of my favorite movies growing up. If I have the opportunity, it will be great." Further rumors are that James or Kevin Durant may also star as new Monstars. 
- Maslin, Janet (1995-11-15). "Icons Meet: Bugs, Daffy And Jordan". NYTimes.com. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
- "RIAA Gold and Platinum Searchable Database". Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- "Grammy- Past Winners Search". Grammy. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- "Space Jam". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2014-09-16.
- Ebert, Roger (15 November 1996). "Space Jam Movie Review & Film Summary (1996)". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- Siskel, Gene (15 November 1996). "Mj Delivers On The Screen In `Space Jam'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- Maltin, Leonard (4 August 2009). Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide. Penguin Group. ISBN 9781101108765. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- McCarthy, Todd (1996-11-17). "Space Jam". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- Wilmington, Michael (15 November 1996). "Hare, Jordan". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- "Space Jam Review". TV Guide. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- McGurk, Margaret A. "Dazzle of 'Space Jam' can't hide its lame story". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- Thompson, Trevor. "My Conversation with Chuck Jones". The Booo Tooons Blooog. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
- "Space Jam (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- "Sports - Basketball Movies at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- Porter, David L. Michael Jordan: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group 2007. ISBN 0-313-33767-5
- Busch, Anita (February 21, 2014). "Ebersols Aboard To Produce And Script Warner Bros’ ‘Space Jam 2′ As A Starring Vehicle For LeBron James". Deadline. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
- Windhorst, Brian (February 21, 2014). "Well it was fun while it lasted. LeBron sources refute Deadline report, there's no Space Jam 2 or Warner Bros. project in works". Twitter. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- "Space Jam 2 Rumors: NBA MVPs Rumored To Clash As LeBron James And Kevin Durant To Star In Sequel! KD To Tune Squad And LBJ To Monstars?". KDrama Stars. May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
- Official website
- Space Jam at the Internet Movie Database
- Space Jam at the TCM Movie Database
- Space Jam at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Space Jam at Rotten Tomatoes
- Space Jam at AllMovie
- Space Jam at Box Office Mojo