Directed by: Joe Pytka
Produced by: Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck, Daniel Goldberg
Starring: Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle & Danny DeVito
Budget: $80 million
Box office: $280 million
Release date: November 15, 1996
Well, it looks like it might just happen. It’s taken a little longer than possibly intended but we finally have good reason to believe that Space Jam 2/The Second/This Time Its Personal is actually set to become a reality. About a month and a half ago and after seeing his performance in Trainwreck the guys and girls at Warner Bros have apparently inked a deal with Springhill Entertainment and LeBron James which could very well concern such a venture. The fact that LeBron’s performance in the aforementioned summer comedy bared little resemblance to the subject of its title and thankfully even less to the performance of Michael Jordan in the film we’re about to look at personally makes me very thankful! Lets look at Space Jam.
It’s true; Michael Jordan technically put in a shift in the same way that the rich but sickeningly stingy stereotype that everyone knows at least one of giving a button to charity before asking for change is still technically donating. The shameless advertising present throughout this film and the attempts to cash in on a marketing combination that was pretty golden at the time are disturbingly blatant. Anyone around in the mid 90’s will remember that the fat cats at Warner Bros had paired up with the clinically obese cats at the NBA to advertise Air Jordan’s and several other products with great success. Naturally with this success more adds followed and Space Jam was the culmination of it all, though the title reads more like something you would imagine 90’s frat-boys getting high on.
Even more naturally critics sussed it out quickly. Not quickly enough though it would seem as despite holding just a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes the film was a financial success and I’m sure LeBron is dying to dive in and get his slice of the pie. I’m not even going to sugar-coat it; this film was not good. It was cynical, obnoxious, nonsensical and in terms of relatable-ness or relevance was about up there with Mr T telling us we should stay away from drugs and treat our mothers right, which we should of course. However, and I’m having a tough time justifying this one by the way, perhaps nostalgia plays a part but for a few reasons I can’t help but admit that I actually enjoyed it.
Instead of the negatives let’s focus on the positives of having the full approval and backing of the NBA in this film. Due to such approval Space Jam features appearances from basketball legends, aside from Jordan, like Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Muggsy Bogues and even Larry Bird. Even though you get the impression that they skipped out on their acting classes to get drunk and tell everyone how they were going to be famous actors they do get in a few amusing and surprisingly adult lines that reference their celebrity status, scenes involving them receiving therapy and Barkley praying at a chapel are particular highlights. Elsewhere DeVito’s tones do their job just fine, Wayne Knight is as much of a consummate professional as he always is and gives the best performance throughout and Bill Murrays cameo is fairly pleasant. Murray did state in an interview around the time of Space Jam’s release that he was displeased with his performance but this was at least a decade before he’d even signed on to do Garfield…
Although it’s not as impressive looking by today’s standards the way that the Looney Tunes and the live actors appear on screen together is an impressive effect and is visually pleasing for the most part. The tunes themselves have certainly been funnier elsewhere but much like the b-ballers they have some good moments and just seeing them all on screen together is a joy in itself. Once the actual basketball scenes begin some of the technological restraints of the time do start to rear their ugly heads but it’s nothing unforgiveable and in some ways it even adds to the nostalgia trip.
Speaking of nostalgia, which I am aware I have done a fair bit of in this piece, I’m hard-pushed to think of a kid’s film that came out that year with a more memorable soundtrack. In fact the songs are so good that I often forget and find it hard to believe that they were spawned from this film; Seal – Fly like an Eagle, Monica – For You I Will and R Kelly – I Believe I Can Fly are far more epic and time-tested than they had any need to be. In fact if the film had the same effort put into it as its soundtrack I probably wouldn’t be writing this piece!
I’m not going to lie; my nostalgic biases are becoming more and more apparent the more I write so somebody that didn’t grow up at the time of Space Jam’s conception and popularity may struggle to see what I’m fussing over and just see a mediocre corporate cash-in. This would be understandable as I’m under no illusions that it’s not brilliant but I’ve had nights out with people my age where somehow drunken conversations have found their way towards Space Jam and we could quote the whole thing! Perhaps, much like Mortal Kombat, time has bought the best out of it and as a harmless piece of 90’s nostalgia I could not recommend Space Jam more.