Space Jam

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Space Jam
Space jam.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joe Pytka
Produced by
Written by
Starring (voice)
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Michael Chapman
Editing by Sheldon Kahn
Studio Northern Lights Entertainment
Courtside Seats Productions
Warner Bros. Animation
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 $230,418,342

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 friends. Despite mixed reviews from critics, Space Jam was a box office success, opening at #1 in the US and grossing over $230 million worldwide.

Plot

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, Michael'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 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 to help them play, and Michael 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 is added to the team thanks to her 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.

Back on Earth, the sudden inability to play basketball inflicting on five top NBA players, 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 phenomena 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 Michael'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 Michael 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 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 had played golf with Michael earlier in the film, 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. Although Bill has always dreamed of being an NBA player, and Michael is impressed with his skills, Bill decides to retire from basketball forever. Michael 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 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 and Stan returns to Earth in the Nerdlucks' spaceship, where Michael makes a dramatic appearance by Stan at a baseball game to the cheers of the audience, despite being late. The next day, Michael and Stan 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.

Cast

Live-action cast

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 for the New Jersey Nets, and Johnson now a teammate of Ewing's on the Knicks.

Voice cast

Because the movie was made after the death of Mel Blanc, 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); 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

The soundtrack sold enough albums to be certified as 6x Platinum.2 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.3 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

Video games

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

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

Toys were released coinciding with the film. such as Happy Meal Promotion, Action Figures, Stuffed Toys, etc.

Reception

Critical response

Space Jam received mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 35% based on 49 reviews.4

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.5 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."1

Veteran Looney Tunes 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 wouldn't have needed anyone's help, 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."6

Box office

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.7 It is the highest grossing basketball movie of all time.8

Accolades

  • 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

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.9

Possible sequel

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.10 However, representatives of James denied the claim that he would be involved.11

References

  1. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (1995-11-15). "Icons Meet: Bugs, Daffy And Jordan". NYTimes.com. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2010-09-12. 
  2. ^ "RIAA Gold and Platinum Searchable Database". Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  3. ^ "Grammy- Past Winners Search". Grammy. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "Space Jam". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  5. ^ McCarthy, Todd (1996-11-17). "Space Jam". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  6. ^ Thompson, Trevor. "My Conversation with Chuck Jones". The Booo Tooons Blooog. Retrieved December 18, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Space Jam (1996)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  8. ^ http://www.boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=basketball.htm
  9. ^ Porter, David L. Michael Jordan: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group 2007. ISBN 0-313-33767-5
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ 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. 

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