Space Jam is a 1996 American family live-action/animated sports 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 others. Despite mixed reviews from critics, Space Jam was a box office success, opening at #1 in the US, and grossing over $230 million worldwide.
The film opens with a young Michael Jordan practicing basketball shots late at night and then segues to footage of Michael as a pro basketball player at his prime.
In late 1995, 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. Meanwhile, a group of criminal aliens called 'The Nerdlucks', led by their boss Mister Swackhammer (voiced by Danny DeVito), plot to capture the Looney Tunes characters, who really exist in a secret animated world called Tune Land (hidden under planet 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 talent of Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, Muggsy Bogues, and Shawn Bradley, who are rendered incapable of playing basketball as a result. The Nerdlucks use the stolen talent to transform into gigantic creatures—now called the Monstars—that the Looney Tunes are unable to defeat.
To help them win, the Tunes choose, abduct and recruit Michael, and he reluctantly agrees after the Monstars squash him into the shape of a basketball and bounce him around like one. A new arrival named Lola Bunny is added to the team thanks to her amazing talent. Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny go to Michael's house to collect what he needs to play, barely dodging his family dog Charles. Michael's publicist Stan (Wayne Knight) sees Bugs and Daffy return to Tune Land and follows them, and stays to support Michael, whose team will be called the Tune Squad.
Despite Michael's leadership, the Monstars dominate the first half of the game. After sneaking into the Monstars' locker room and being detected despite hiding in a locker and scorched as a result, Stan informs 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' lead quickly gets smaller. Seeing Swackhammer angry that the Monstars did not steal Michael's talent, Michael 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 Michael. He readily accepts it and Bugs tries to talk him out of it, all the while being aware of what it means if Michael 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 Michael, Bugs, Lola and Daffy are left, leaving them short one player. Reluctantly, Michael puts Stan in the game, and though he is quickly taken out of action, the Monstars' lead is now down to one. Marvin The Martian, who is the referee, tells them that if there is no fifth player, the team will forfeit the game. At the last second, Bill Murray (who Swackhammer incorrectly identifies as Dan Aykroyd, his Ghostbusters co-star) appears in the stadium and joins the team, breaking the fourth wall along the way.
With only seconds left, Bill pulls some clever manueuvering and gets the ball to Michael. Extending his arm to superhuman lengths (since the laws of physics work differently in Tune Land), Michael makes the basket and wins the game. He 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 Michael'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.
Afterwards, Michael returns to Earth in the Nerdlucks' spaceship, where he makes a dramatic appearance at a baseball game to the cheers of the audience, despite being late. The next day, Michael gives the stolen talent back to the NBA players, who immediately regain their lost skills. Michael 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.
- Brandon Hammond as Michael Jordan as a child.
- 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.
- Wayne Knight as Stan Podolak, a publicist who makes sure nobody bothers Michael Jordan.
- 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.
- Theresa Randle as Juanita Jordan, Michael Jordan's supportive wife. The character is based on Jordan's real life ex-wife.
- Manner Washington as Jeffrey Jordan, Michael Jordan's oldest son.
- Eric Gordon as Marcus Jordan, Michael Jordan's youngest son.
- Penny Bae Bridges as Jasmine Jordan, Michael Jordan's daughter.
- Del Harris 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 players whose talents were stolen, 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 was playing for the New Jersey Nets, and Johnson was teammates with Ewing on the Knicks.
Because the movie was made after the death of Mel Blanc, the character voices he originated were performed by other actors:
- Billy West provides the voices of:
- Dee Bradley Baker provides the voices of:
- 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.
- Bob Bergen provides the voices of:
- Bill Farmer provides the voices of:
- June Foray (the only original Looney Tunes voice actor in the movie) provides the voice of:
- Maurice LaMarche provides the voice of Pepé Le Pew.
- Kath Soucie provides the voice of Lola Bunny, a female rabbit who plays for the Looney Tunes' team. 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 were in Michael's house.
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).
- Main article: Space Jam (soundtrack)
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" became a hit after it was featured on the film's soundtrack. Other tracks included a cover of "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), and "My Girl" by the Temptations. The movie's title song was performed by the Quad City DJ's.
The film was released on VHS on March 11, 1997 with a collector's coin. The film was released as a 2-disc special edition DVD on October 28, 2003, and as a feature in a 4-film Favorites: Family Comedies 4-movie collection in November 6, 2007, and was released as a single disc DVD on February 8, 2011, and for the first time in widescreen HD on Blu-ray on October 4, 2011.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave Space Jam a "thumbs up," which Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune also gave the film, although his zeal was more subdued. Todd McCarthy of Variety praised the film for its humor. He also praised the Looney Tunes' antics and Jordan's acting. 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."
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 mediaEdit
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 merging with WorldCom and subsequently Verizon Communications.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Maslin, Janet (1995-11-15). "Icons Meet: Bugs, Daffy And Jordan". NYTimes.com. The New York Times Company. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C07E5D8163AF936A25752C1A960958260. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
- ↑ "RIAA Gold and Platinum Searchable Database". http://www.riaa.com. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- ↑ "Space Jam". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/space_jam/. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- ↑ McCarthy, Todd (1996-11-17). "Space Jam". Variety (Reed Business Information). http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117911460. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- ↑ "Space Jam (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=spacejam.htm. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- ↑ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=basketball.htm
- ↑ Porter, David L. Michael Jordan: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group 2007. ISBN 0-313-33767-5
- 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 AllRovi
- Space Jam at Box Office Mojo