The odd combination of Looney Tunes, basketball, aliens and Michael Jordan remains a cult favorite with fans still calling for a sequel
Nostalgia! Boy, does it come in handy at times like this. Why dwell on the impending doom ushered in by a Donald Trump presidency when you can travel back to a happier, simpler time maybe a time when cartoon characters played basketball with Michael Jordan?
Yes, its the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of Space Jam the alleged classic in which the Chicago Bulls icon Jordan teamed up with the Looney Tunes to play a collection of jacked-up aliens in a game of basketball where punches, kicks, slaps, and dynamite were all legal.
In the years since this 90-minute product placement was unleashed, its taken on a significance within the culture that might not be appropriate for a film where Porky Pig wets himself. Some have begged for the long-rumored sequel starring LeBron James to finally come to fruition. Others, such as the NBA player Patrick Patterson, have claimed that Space Jam is the perfect movie and is too sacred to ever replicate. It felt like it actually happened, he says in a piece for the Players Tribune.
Could Space Jam have actually happened, like Patterson said? Could aliens really kidnap animated characters and force them to play sports? Is Bill Murray really capable of a crisp, Magic Johnson-esque behind-the-back pass? Is this movie even actually good, or have clinically depressed millennials turned Space Jam into an avatar for their dashed childhood hopes and dreams, a salve for the crushing disappointment that is literally everything about being an adult? Lets find out, shall we?
The film begins simply enough, with a young MJ shooting hoops in his backyard in 1973. His father does what any self-respecting dad should do: he encourages his kid to keep practicing and developing his game. This portion of the film resembles a naturalistic sports movie, an underdog story about a young black child who wants to learn to fly.
The journey for our hero is simple: after a stint as a minor league baseball player, Jordan must recapture his love of basketball in time to prevent the owner of a failing amusement park on another planet from kidnapping the Looney Tunes (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Tasmanian Devil, Tweety Bird, etc) and forcing them to work as sideshow attractions. Why the Looney Tunes? Because said owner has a wall of TV monitors playing classic cartoons starring the Looney Tunes.
You might be wondering how Jordan is as an actor. After all, this was his one and only cinematic starring role. Like Eminem in 8 Mile and Pamela Anderson in Barb Wire, he went out on top, an unquestioned master of his craft.
Just kidding, hes terrible! It doesnt matter what the situation is: Jordan will crack a wry smile. He could be riding in Wayne Knights beat-up old car or being sucked through a hole in a golf course and spit back out in a parallel universe full of talking animals he will eventually smile. I have to assume this is a residual from his highly lucrative career as a commercial pitchman. At the end of an advert, the pitchman must smile, so that you, the potential consumer, will be aware that the product in question will render all of your pain and torment manageable. Heres Michael Jordan smiling at the end of a Hanes commercial. Heres Michael Jordan smiling at the end of a McDonalds commercial. Heres Michael Jordan smiling in Space Jam, in a scene where hes supposed to look imposing.
The Looney Tunes dont fare much better. The script crams in every cliched old-timey joke the writers can think of, even referencing the movie Patton, which is, of course, every childs favorite movie. After Jordan travels to the Earths core, where scary cartoon land exists, hes examined by Daffy Duck to make sure hes as impressive a physical specimen as his reputation suggests. Daffy peers into Jordans ear canal and in addition to a fair amount of waxy build-up, theres a lone paper clip inside Jordans skull. Is this implying that NBA Hall of Famer and six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan puts metal objects inside his own ear canal? Was this a childhood injury? Will the paper clip prove to be crucial in the third act denouement?
Absolutely not on all counts. Its just a cheap visual gag. Michael Jordan doesnt put paper clips inside his ears. That was a dirty rumor started by Karl Malone, who, to this day, is still upset he was not given a part in Space Jam.