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Space Jam
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Director

Joe Pytka

Producers

Ivan Reitman
Joe Medjuck
Daniel Goldberg

Writers

Leo Benvenuti
Steve Rudnick
Timothy Harris
Herschel Weingrod
Nick Scott

Starring

Michael Jordan
Bugs Bunny
Wayne Knight
Theresa Randle
Danny DeVito

Music

James Newton Howard

Cinematography

Michael Chapman

Editor

Sheldon Kahn

Distributor

Warner Bros. Family Entertainment.

Release

November 15, 1996

Running Time

88 minutes

Too many parameters

Space Jam is a 1996 American live-action/animated science fiction sports comedy film starring Michael Jordan and 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 Michael's first retirement from the N.B.A., the film was released theatrically by Warner Bros. under the Family Entertainment label on November 15, 1996. It plays out as an alternate story of Michael's initial return to basketball, this time with him being inspired by Bugs Bunny and others. Space Jam was a box office success, opening at #1 in the U.S., and grossing over $230,000,000 worldwide.

Plot

The film opens in 1973, with Michael Jordan practicing basketball shots late at night. His father notices this and says to come inside. The young Michael then asks if he can get a couple more shots in, which his father accepts and notices how good he is, he then lets him keep shooting until he misses. As Michael shoots he discusses with his dad his plans for the future, to become a basketball player.

He also notes that once he’s done with this he'll play baseball, a sport that his dad loves. As young Michael dribbles the ball to the basket the scene then segues to footage of Michael as a basketball player at his prime.

Twenty years later in 1993, professional basketball player Michael Jordan announces his retirement from the NBA to follow in his father's footsteps and turn to a career in baseball.

Meanwhile, a group of criminal aliens called the Nerdlucks, led by their boss, Mr. Swackhammer, plot to capture the Looney Tunes characters, who really live 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 to 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 talents 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 by themselves without the help of a professional, in which Bugs Bunny says "I think we might need a little bit of help."

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 as Michael says "That girl's got some skills." Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny go to Michael's house to collect what he needs to play, barely dodging his dog, Charles. Michael's publicist Stan (Wayne Knight) sees Bugs and Daffy return to Tune Land and follows them, stays to support Michael, whose team will be called the Tune Squad. In the real world, the NBA commissioner, over concerns about the players' well-being, announces that the season will be suspended until further notice.

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' commanding lead is reduced to a significantly smaller margin. Seeing Swackhammer 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, informs them that if there is no fifth player, the team will have no choice but to forfeit the game. At the last second, Bill Murray 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 Mr. Swackhammer, who confronts them for losing. Fed up with their abusive boss, the Monstars tie him up to a rocket and send him to Moron Mountain on 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 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 a Nerdlucks' spaceship, where he makes a dramatic appearance at a baseball game of an audience, despite being late. The next morning, Michael gives the stolen talent back to the NBA players, who immediately regain their lost skills. Two years later in 1995, Michael is later prompted by his rivals to return to the NBA, mirroring his real-life comeback with the Chicago Bulls.

Cast

Live-Action Actors

Animated Actors

Production

For more information on Production, see Production.

For more information on Production Art, see Production Art.

Music

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 and Barry White), and "For You I Will" (by Monica). The movie's theme song was performed by the Quad City DJ's.

Printed or Published Media

For more information on Printed and Published Media, see Books and Magazines.

Home media

The film was released on VHS and DVD on March 11, 1997. The film was released as a 2-disc special edition DVD on April 24, 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 March 20, 2012 and for the first time in widescreen HD on Blu-ray.

Merchandise

Video games

There was a video game adaptation by Acclaim based on the film and a video game for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and MS-DOS. Ports for the Windows PC, SNES and the N64 were cancelled for unknown reasons.

There was a licensed pinball game by Sega based on the film, a video game for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and MS-DOS by Acclaim, and a handheld LCD game by Tiger Electronics.

Home media

Main article: Space Jam (video)

Warner Home Video released the film on VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD on March 11, 1997. 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 re-released on DVD on July 25, 2000. 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 four films in Warner Home Video's 4-Film Favorites: Family Comedies collection DVD (the other three being Looney Tunes: Back in Action (released seven years after Space Jam), 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 on October 4, 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. A double DVD and Blu-ray release, paired with Looney Tunes: Back in Action, was released on June 7, 2016. On November 15, 2016, Warner Bros. released another Blu-ray for Space Jam to commemorate the movie's 20th Anniversary.

Toys

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 other movie characters (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. In addition, the line included stuffed toys, decorated basketballs, as well as a McDonald's Happy Meal promotion.

Reception

Critical Response

Space Jam received negative-to-mixed reviews from film critics.

On the critical response aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 37%, based on 52 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." On Metacritic, it has a score of 59 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Space Jam a thumbs up, as did Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, although his zeal was more subdued. In his print review, Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 stars, 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)." 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." Leonard Maltin also gave the film a positive review (three stars), stating, "Jordan is very engaging, the vintage characters perform admirably ... and the computer-generated special effects are a collective knockout." 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." 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 Tunes 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.)." TV Guide gave the movie only two 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." Margaret A. McGurk of The Cincinnati Enquirer gave the film 2 1/2 stars, saying, "Technical spectacle amounts do nothing without a good story."

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.'" Jones also added that, had the film been more true to the source material, Bugs Bunny would not have enlisted the help of Jordan or the other Looney Tunes characters to defeat the Monstars, "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."

Critics

Many critics compared it unfavorably to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a popular film in which cartoon characters and live-action humans coexisted in the same film as well. Basketball fans thought the movie to be demeaning to the sport, and to Michael Jordan himself.

Those who liked the film praised the visual effects, which were groundbreaking at the time. Roger Ebert was among the few major critics to give Space Jam an enthusiastic "thumbs up." Some of his readers theorized that Ebert did so because he works in Chicago, and therefore would be supportive of any of Michael Jordan's endeavours. Leonard Maltin also gave the film a positive review.

Despite the negative press, the film 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 notable musical numbers appearing in the film include a cover of Fly Like an Eagle (by Seal), Hit 'em High (Monstar's Anthem) (by B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes), and For You I Will (by Monica).

Box Office

Space Jam was a box office success. It grossed approximately $90.4 million in the United States at the end of its run and an estimated $230–$250 million internationally. As of July 2017, Box Office Mojo ranks it as the highest-grossing basketball film of all time.

The film made its television premiere on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney on November 14, 1999.

Accolades

  • 1997 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards
    • Won: Most Performed Songs from Motion Pictures (Diane Warren for the song "For You I Will")
    • Won: Top Box Office Films (James Newton Howard)
  • 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)
  • 1997 Grammy Awards
    • Won: Best Song Written Specifically for Motion Picture or for Television (R. Kelly for the song "I Believe I Can Fly")
  • 1997 MTV Movie Awards
  • 1997 Satellite Awards
    • Nomination: Best Motion Picture- Animated or Mixed Media (Daniel Goldberg, Joe Medjuck, Ivan Reitman)
  • 1997 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 media

The Monstars make a cameo in the Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain episode "Star Warners". Jordan himself, 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. Bugs had previously appeared with Jordan as "Hare Jordan" in Nike ads for the Air Jordan VII and Air Jordan VIII. 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.

Transcript

Main article: Space Jam/Transcript

Trivia

For a list of characters that have cameo appearances in the movie, see List of Space Jam cameos.

  • The scuffed basketball used in the film is a treasured souvenir owned by director Joe Pytka. When held by Michael Jordan it is real, but whenever it is in flight or controlled by the cartoon characters it is animated.
  • When flying towards "Moron Mountain", the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey can be seen at the very right edge of the frame floating in space.
  • In order to fill up the audience from a limited selection of characters, one section was made from actual Looney Tunes. The rest were simply replicated over and over and then seated next to each other to create the illusion of a full audience.
  • The gym where the Looney Tunes practice is called "Leon Schlesinger Gym" after Leon Schlesinger, the man who produced the first Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.
  • Noel Blanc (Mel Blanc's son) was originally booked to provide all of the regular Warner Bros. male cartoon characters' voices. But he and Warner Bros. couldn't agree on a contract, so the studio replaced Blanc with four other people to do the 12 male voices, instead of Blanc doing them all.
  • While praying in church for the return of his basketball skills, Charles Barkley says, "I'm never gonna go out with Madonna again." This refers to his own fling with Madonna (not Dennis Rodman's fling, as previously reported).
  • Michael Jordan actually wore his college basketball shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform every game as a good luck charm.
  • A picture of Bosko, Warner Bros. first cartoon star, can be seen hanging on the wall of the meeting hall, in the scene where Yosemite Sam confronts the aliens.
  • The concept for this film originated from a series of highly popular Nike ads where Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan faced off against Marvin the Martian and his alien henchmen in basketball.
  • The hat that Bill Murray is wearing at the Bulls game at the end of the film is the Saint Paul Saints, a minor league baseball team of which Murray was a part owner at the time.
  • This film marks the debut of Lola Bunny, Bugs' love interest.
  • When Larry Johnson says that his grandmother can play better than him, it is a reference to the Converse commercial where Johnson plays his grandma.
  • The Nerdlucks and the Monstars' names are Pound (orange), Bang (green), Nawt (red), Bupkus (purple) and Blanko (blue). None of their names are mentioned in the film, and neither is the word "Nerdluck".
  • To keep Michael Jordan happy while filming, Warner Bros. built him his own basketball court.
  • In July 2021, Bustle magazine journalist Arya Roshanian confirmed that Patricia Heaton's "doing something weird in his raincoat" bit was a hit at sex perverts known as "flashers." Roshanian also wrote that the true nature of the joke "probably didn’t register when you were a kid." https://www.bustle.com/entertainment/space-jam-michael-jordan-nsfw-jokes
  • The soundtrack was composed of hit songs.
  • The Nerdlucks and the Monstars are all voiced by women and men.
  • Korey Coleman, founder of the award winning animated movie review site Spill, was an assistant animator for Space Jam, he animated Tweety's shadows.
  • Patricia Heaton, who played Debra from 'Everybody Loves Raymond' is the one who notices that the guy next to us is doing something very weird in his raincoat.
    • Dan Castellaneta, who played Homer Simpson from 'The Simpsons', plays her husband.
  • Several NBA players make appearances.
  • Many well known and recognizes voices appear in the film:
  • Kath Soucie as Lola.
  • Danny DeVito as Swackhammer.
  • Billy West as Bugs.
  • Dee Bradley Baker as Daffy.
  • Bob Bergen as both Tweety and Porky.
  • June Foray as Granny.
  • Bill Farmer as Foghorn Leghorn.
  • This is the first feature film by Warner Bros. Feature Animation.
  • This is the first Looney Tunes film to be rated PG by the MPAA.
  • The second Warner Bros.' animated theatrical film to be rated PG by the MPAA, after Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Continuity

  • The sweat on Michael's jersey while he is warming up with the Looney Tunes.
  • When Tweety is surrounded by the Monstars and he fights them off with karate, the timer is visible in the background, set at 12:00. Before this scene, the timer was at 5:01.
  • After Wile E. Coyote crashes into the auditorium, Daffy steps on his nose. On the very next shot, Daffy is walking in the aisle, but Wile E. is not visible behind him.
  • When the talent is stolen from Patrick Ewing, the first clock shows 6:07 left. When the camera pans the other way and when he heads to the free throw line, the clock shows 6:13 left.
  • The arena and the arena floor change during the Knicks-Suns game at the beginning.
  • After the alien steals Patrick Ewing's talent the referee throws the ball to him for a free throw. The ball hits Ewing in the chest. When Michael is watching TV and sees the replay of the incident, the ball hits Ewing in the forehead.
  • In the scene where Daffy Duck is strutting down the runway showing off his many different looks, his basketball sneakers are shaped like regular sneakers at the toe. In the next shot, they are shaped like his webbed foot.
  • When the green monstar says, 'you're all washed up, baldy', he is to the left of Michael Jordan. When Michael Jordan reacts and says 'baldy?', he looks up to the right.
  • During the scene in Madison Square Garden, The court goes from having only the professional three point line and an orange lane, later on in the scene, there are two three point lines, college and professional, and the lane is now blue.
  • When Stan is inflated out of his pancake state and flies past the scoreboard, the Tune Squad's score is shown as 67. Seconds later, their score is shown as 76.
  • When Swackhammer says to the Nerdluck, "Nice! Did you see the move on that one?" the Nerdluck is red. Previously, the Nerdluck had been a brownish color.
  • When Bill was first shown on the court for the Tune Squad, he didn't have a hat on. Then in the next shot of him he has a hat on backwards.
  • Lola is not among the Tunes exercising to the Richard Simmons video, but appears in the gym out of nowhere a few seconds later, just after Michael Jordan enters in his uniform.
  • When Michael is sucked through the golf hole by the Looney Tunes, his shoes fly off his feet and land on the green. When Michael emerges in the cartoon world, his shoes are back on his feet.
  • When Michael is sucked down the golf cup, both of his shoes are left behind. When he arrives, he's got one shoe on.
  • When Michael first arrives home after the baseball game, the name of the dog Charles is on the dog house. When Daffy goes to Michael's house to get his shoes and shorts and the dog attacks him, the name is missing.

Crew or equipment visible

  • When Stan Podolak falls in the Birmingham Barons' dugout, you can clearly see the mat that he falls on.

Factual errors

  • Many of the Monstars jump and slam from beyond the three point line but every one is only counted as two points.

Revealing mistakes

  • When Michael's children Barkley the bulldog, the shot of the dog leaving is a mismatched composite shot. The dog is shot from a high camera angle, but the background plate is at a low angle.
  • When Charles the Dog jumps on Michael Jordan to lick him when he comes home from his baseball game, the dog is clearly a stuffed animal.
  • Larry Johnson only grazes the hospital doorway, but is still knocked out like Shawn Bradley and Patrick Ewing.

Plot

  • Towards the end of the game, Michael asks Bugs how Stan's body cartoonishly inflated when filled with air, but Michaels body reacted a similar way when the Monstars crushed him into a basketball and dunked him.

Censorship

  • When it was shown on FX, Freeform, The Hub (now Discovery Family), Bounce TV, Nickelodeon, Teenick, VH1, MTV, Spike (now Paramount Network), Viceland, Cartoon Network, syndication, NBA TV, Nicktoons, and VH1 Classic, the part with Stan Podolak flatulent in the arena during the deflation was cut out due to the September 11 attacks in 2001. Another edit is the removal of the post credits scene with Michael Jordan telling viewers that if he wants to go home for some channels in order for the next programming/movie to start. Another removal for Viceland is the That's All Folks signature.

Quotes

Pound: You! All of you, are now our prisoners!
Mr. Swackhammer: It smells like a spy!
Lola: Don't ever call me doll!
Blanko: Hey, little pig! Boo!
Porky: I wet myself.
Bill Murray: Whoa, I don't play defense.
Bang: You're all washed up, baldy!
Michael Jordan: Yeah, but I'm a baseball player now.
Bugs: (holding a skull, as in Hamlet) Right. And I am a Shakespearean actor!

Video releases (America/Australia/South Korea)

Main film releases

  • Space Jam (American VHS/DVD)
  • Space Jam (1997 Australian VHS/1998 Australian DVD and Edition 2007 Australian DVD)
  • Space Jam (South Korean DVD)

20th Anniversary releases

  • Space Jam (20th Anniversary 2016 American DVD)
  • Space Jam (20th Anniversary South Korean DVD)
  • Space Jam (20th Anniversary 2017 Australian DVD)
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