Space Jam

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This article is about the motion picture. For other uses, see Space Jam (disambiguation).
Space Jam
Space jam.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joe Pytka
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Michael Chapman
Edited by Sheldon Kahn
Production
company
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • November 15, 1996 (1996-11-15)
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million
Box office $230,418,342

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. Nigel Miguel was a basketball technical advisor.[1]

Released theatrically by Warner Bros. under the Family Entertainment brand label on November 15, 1996, it includes an alternate story of what happened between Jordan's initial retirement from the NBA in 1993 and his comeback in 1995, this time with him being inspired by events including Bugs Bunny and friends. Despite mixed critical reviews, Space Jam opened at #1 in the US and grossed over $230 million worldwide.

Plot[edit]

In 1993, at the peak of his powers, 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, it becomes evident while playing with the minor-league Birmingham Barons, part of the Chicago White Sox farm system, that Jordan's baseball talent is nowhere near his basketball talent. 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 Jordan during a game of golf with Larry Bird and Bill Murray and recruits him. He 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 - his shoes and basketball gear, including his Columbia blue University of North Carolina shorts, which he wore under his uniform every game of his pro career - barely dodging his family dog Charles, who has the shorts. 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, taking a 54-point lead into halftime. 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, Murray 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 defies being held at midcourt and makes a dunk from half court that beats the buzzer 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, preferring to "go out on top." 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 Barons baseball game to the cheers of the audience, despite being late. The next day, Jordan and Stan meet Barkley, Ewing, Bogues, Johnson and Bradley and give them the ball containing their stolen talent, immediately restoring their lost skills. They offer Jordan a chance to play a 3-on-3 with them, but when Jordan initially refuses, the others wonder if he still has the motivation and talent that the NBA demands. Jordan says, "There's only one way to find out..." and subsequently comes out of retirement, returning to the Chicago Bulls in a mirroring of his real-life comeback.

Cast[edit]

Live-action cast[edit]

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 (now the Brooklyn Nets), and Johnson with the Knicks alongside Ewing.

Voice cast[edit]

Because the movie was made after the death of Mel Blanc in 1989, the character voices he originated were performed by other actors:

The voices of the Nerdlucks are provided by Jocelyn Blue (Pound), Charity James (Blanko), June Melby (Bang), Catherine Reitman (Bupkus), and Colleen Wainwright (Nawt), who also provides the voice of Sniffles; 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).

Music[edit]

The soundtrack sold enough albums to be certified as 6x Platinum.[3] 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.[4] 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.

Merchandise[edit]

Video games[edit]

There was a licensed pinball game by Sega based on the film and a video game for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Windows PC by Acclaim.

Home media[edit]

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[edit]

Toys were released coinciding with the film, including various action figures released by Playmates under the short lived banner "WB Toy". The toys had limited articulation and paired Michael Jordan, or another characters of the movie (Charles Barkley and the Monstars with a Looney Tunes character and accessories). Some figures depicted Michael Jordan as a basketball player, a baseball player and a golf player. The line included stuffed toys, decorated basketballs, as well as a McDonald's Happy Meal promotion.

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

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."[5]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave Space Jam a thumbs up,[6] as did Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, although his zeal was more subdued.[7] 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)."[6] 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."[7] 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."[8] Todd McCarthy of Variety praised the film for its humor. He also praised the Looney Tunes' antics and Jordan's acting.[9]

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."[2] 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.)"[10]

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."[11] Margaret A. McGurk of The Cincinnati Enquirer gave the film 2 1/2 stars, saying, "Technical spectacle amounts do nothing without a good story."[12]

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."[13]

Box office[edit]

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.[14] It is the highest grossing basketball movie of all time.[15]

Accolades[edit]

  • 1997 Annie Awards
    • Won: Best Individual Achievement: Technical Achievement
    • Nomination: Best Animated Feature
    • Nomination: Best Individual Achievement: Directing in a Feature Production (Bruce W. Smith and Tony Cervone)
    • Nomination: Best Individual Achievement: Producing in a Feature Production (Ron Tippe)
  • 1998 World Animation Celebration
    • Won: Best Use of Animation in a Motion Picture Trailer

In other media[edit]

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.[16] Beforehand, Bugs had already appeared with Jordan as "Hare Jordan" in Nike ads for the Air Jordan VII and Air Jordan VIII.[17][18]

Yahoo! Screen also aided in the creation of a humorous ESPN 30 for 30 short about the Tune Squad-Monstars game, which dates the game to November 17th, 1995 (which falls after Jordan's actual comeback date of March 18th, 1995.)[19]

Trivia[edit]

Possible sequel[edit]

In February 2014, Warner Bros. announced a sequel, set to star 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.[20] Representatives of James denied the claim that he would be involved.[21]

In May 2014, James 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.[22]

In the meantime, current NBA players Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers were involved with a readthrough of the original film script with Seth Green and other stars for Funny or Die.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Belize has new Films Commissioner". channel5belize.com. February 11, 2009. Archived from the original on October 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (1995-11-15). "Icons Meet: Bugs, Daffy And Jordan". NYTimes.com. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  3. ^ "RIAA Gold and Platinum Searchable Database". Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  4. ^ "Grammy- Past Winners Search". Grammy. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "Space Jam". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2014-09-16. 
  6. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (15 November 1996). "Space Jam Movie Review & Film Summary (1996)". Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Siskel, Gene (15 November 1996). "Mj Delivers On The Screen In `Space Jam'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  8. ^ Maltin, Leonard (4 August 2009). Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide. Penguin Group. ISBN 9781101108765. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  9. ^ McCarthy, Todd (1996-11-17). "Space Jam". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  10. ^ Wilmington, Michael (15 November 1996). "Hare, Jordan". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Space Jam Review". TV Guide. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  12. ^ McGurk, Margaret A. "Dazzle of 'Space Jam' can't hide its lame story". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  13. ^ Thompson, Trevor. "My Conversation with Chuck Jones". The Booo Tooons Blooog. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Space Jam (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  15. ^ "Sports - Basketball Movies at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  16. ^ Porter, David L. Michael Jordan: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group 2007. ISBN 0-313-33767-5
  17. ^ Hare Jordan & Air Jordan - Air Jordan VII YouTube (created by Nike and Warner Bros.)
  18. ^ Hare Jordan & Air Jordan - Air Jordan VIII YouTube (created by Nike and Warner Bros.)
  19. ^ ESPN 30 for 30 Short - Tune Squad vs. Monstars (the Space Jam Game) YouTube (created by Yahoo! Screen and Warner Bros.)
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ "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. 
  23. ^ Space Jam Readthrough with Seth Green, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin & More YouTube (produced by Funny or Die)

External links[edit]