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 Ivan Reitman
Joe Medjuck
Daniel Goldberg
Written by Leo Benvenuti
Steve Rudnick

Timothy Harris
Herschel Weingrod
Starring Michael Jordan
Wayne Knight
Theresa Randle
Danny DeVito
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Michael Chapman
Edited by Sheldon Kahn
Distributed by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment
Release dates
  • November 15, 1996 (1996-11-15)
Running time
87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million
Box office $230–$250 million

Space Jam is a 1996 American family sports comedy film starring basketball player Michael Jordan and featuring the Looney Tunes cartoon 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 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. Space Jam opened at #1 in the US and grossed over $230 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing basketball movie of all time.


In 1993, professional basketball player Michael Jordan announces his retirement from the sport to follow his late father's career as a baseball player. However, it becomes evident that he is not as skilled in baseball as he was in basketball. Jordan is assigned a publicist, the bumbling Stan Podolak, to make his new career less bumpy. Elsewhere, in outer space, an intergalactic amusement park called Moron Mountain faces dwindling popularity, so its owner, Mr. Swackhammer, sends his diminutive minions, the Nerdlucks, to capture the Looney Tunes as new entertainment. The Looney Tunes live in an animated world hidden in the center of the Earth, but are unable to listen to the Nerdlucks' threats and challenge them to a game of basketball to try to win back their freedom.

However, the Nerdlucks steal the talents of basketball players Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues, leaving them incapable of playing. The Nerdlucks absorb the talent, transforming into the gigantic Monstars who easily intimidate the Looney Tunes. While playing golf with Bill Murray, Larry Bird, and Stan, Jordan is sucked down a hole and is recruited by Bugs Bunny to help the Tunes win against the Monstars. Jordan at first refuses, saying he doesn't play basketball anymore, but changes his mind and agrees to help when the Monstars insult him, humiliate him, and hurt Tweety, but first sends Bugs and Daffy to his house to retrieve his basketball gear. The two have a difficult time obtaining the clothes thanks to Jordan's pet dog, but his children help them out.

Meanwhile, Stan has been digging out the golf hole to find Jordan, but spots Bugs and Daffy leap down another one and pursues them, reuniting with Jordan in the Tunes' world and joins the Tune Squad. Another new recruit is Lola Bunny, a skilled basketball player whom Bugs falls in love with. The day of the match arrives, but the first half is dominated by the Monstars, leaving the Looney Tunes unconfident. Stan eavesdrops on a conversation between the Monstars and Swackhammer, learning of how they gained their talent and informs Jordan. Bugs and Jordan convince the rest of the Tune Squad to fight back, and the first half of the second round allows the characters to take the lead using Acme weaponry. Swackhammer decides he wants Jordan as a new attraction, and makes an agreement with him that he will become an attraction if he loses the match, sparing the Looney Tunes.

To ensure his victory, Swackhammer has the Monstars play dirty and injure all of the Tune Squad save Jordan, Bugs, Daffy, Lola, and Stan. Stan becomes the fifth player and manages to score, but is literally flattened by the Monstars and is removed from the court to be inflated. The referee, Marvin the Martian, informs Jordan unless the team gets a fifth player then the game is forfeit. Bill Murray appears and volunteers to be the team's fifth member. In the final seconds of the game, Jordan gains the ball and manages to use cartoon physics to extend his arm and score the winning points. Murray retires from the sport, and the Monstars blast Swackhammer to the Moon in a rocket when they realise they don't have to take his abuse anymore. Jordan convinces them to give up the stolen talents and they are welcomed to stay with the Looney Tunes.

Jordan and a recovered Stan return to the surface, the Nerdlucks dropping them off at Jordan's next baseball game. Later on, the two visit the incapacitated basketball players and return their talent. The players invite Jordan to a three-on-three match but when he declines, they question his loss of talent. In a move mirroring his actual comeback in 1995, Jordan returns to the Chicago Bulls to reprise his basketball career.


Live-action cast[edit]

  • Michael Jordan as himself, the Chicago Bulls legendary shooting guard who retires from the NBA to pursue a career in baseball like his father, but returns to basketball in the end.
  • 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, also named Juanita.
  • Bill Murray as himself, an actor and comedian who is one of 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 "on top and undefeated."[2]
  • Larry Bird as himself, the Boston Celtics legendary small forward and one of Michael's friends and one of his golfing partners. He crushes Bill Murray's dream of playing in the NBA.
  • Thom Barry as James R. Jordan, Sr., Michael Jordan's father.
  • Charles Barkley as himself, the Phoenix Suns power forward, who gets his talent stolen by Pound.
  • Shawn Bradley as himself, the Philadelphia 76ers center, who gets his talent stolen by Blanko.
  • Patrick Ewing as himself, the New York Knicks center, who gets his talent stolen by Bang.
  • Larry Johnson as himself, the Charlotte Hornets power forward, who gets his talent stolen by Bupkus.
  • Muggsy Bogues as himself, the Hornets point guard, who gets his talent stolen by Nawt.

Voice cast[edit]

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


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.


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]

Warner Home Video released the film on VHS and Laserdisc on March 11, 1997 (the VHS version was sold with a collector's coin included). The VHS tape was re-printed and re-released through Warner Home Video's catalog promotions: the Warner Bros. 75th Anniversary Celebration (1998), Century Collection (1999), Century 2000 (2000) and Warner Spotlight (2001). The film was released on DVD for the first time on July 25, 2000. On April 4, 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 Home Video'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, 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.


Critical response[edit]

On the critical response aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds 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]

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, "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 approximately $90.4 million in the United States and an estimated $230–$250 million internationally.[14][15] It is the highest grossing basketball movie of all time.[16]


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.[17] Bugs had previously appeared with Jordan as "Hare Jordan" in Nike ads for the Air Jordan VII and Air Jordan VIII.[18][19]

In 2013, Yahoo! Screen released a parody of ESPN's 30 for 30 about the game shown in the film. The short dates the game as taking place on November 17, 1995, although Jordan's real-life return to basketball occurred on March 18 of that year.[20]


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.[21] Representatives of James denied the claim that he would be involved.[citation needed] 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."[22] In July 2015, James and his production company, SpringHill Entertainment, signed a deal with Warner Bros. for television, movies and digital content after receiving positive reviews on his acting role in Trainwreck and speculating a rumor that the production of the sequel to Space Jam may actually happen.[23][24][25]

In the meantime, current NBA players Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers participated in a live reading of the original film script with Seth Green and other actors for the comedy website Funny or Die.[26] In February 2015, Nike and Jordan Brand announced a re-release of Bugs' "Hare Jordan" sneakers.[27]


  1. ^ "Belize has new Films Commissioner". February 11, 2009. Archived from the original on October 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (November 15, 1995). "Icons Meet: Bugs, Daffy And Jordan". The New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ "RIAA Gold and Platinum Searchable Database". Retrieved January 23, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Grammy- Past Winners Search". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Space Jam". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved September 16, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (November 15, 1996). "Space Jam Movie Review & Film Summary (1996)". Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Siskel, Gene (November 15, 1996). "Mj Delivers On The Screen In `Space Jam'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  8. ^ Maltin, Leonard (August 4, 2009). Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide. Penguin Group. ISBN 9781101108765. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  9. ^ McCarthy, Todd (November 17, 1996). "Space Jam". Variety. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  10. ^ Wilmington, Michael (November 15, 1996). "Hare, Jordan". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Space Jam Review". TV Guide. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ McGurk, Margaret A. "Dazzle of 'Space Jam' can't hide its lame story". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved October 1, 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 December 2, 2011. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Sports — Basketball Movies at the Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  17. ^ Porter, David L. Michael Jordan: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group 2007. ISBN 0-313-33767-5
  18. ^ Hare Jordan & Air Jordan - Air Jordan VII YouTube (created by Nike and Warner Bros.)
  19. ^ Hare Jordan & Air Jordan - Air Jordan VIII YouTube (created by Nike and Warner Bros.)
  20. ^ ESPN 30 for 30 Short - Tune Squad vs. Monstars (the Space Jam Game) YouTube (created by Yahoo! Screen and Warner Bros.)
  21. ^ 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. 
  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. ^ "LeBron James signs with Warner Bros., stokes rumors of 'Space Jam' sequel". Los Angeles Times. July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2015. 
  24. ^ LeBron James: I'll help pay for hundreds of kids to go to college
  25. ^ Trumbore, Dave (August 14, 2015). "LeBron James Hopeful for 'Great Things' in 'Space Jam 2′". Collider. 
  26. ^ Space Jam Readthrough with Seth Green, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin & More YouTube (produced by Funny or Die)
  27. ^ Nike announces 2015 re-release of Hare Jordans The Sporting News

External links[edit]