Space Jam is a 1996 American live-action/animated family sports comedy film directed by Joe Pytka. Starring basketball player Michael Jordan, the film depicts a fictionalized account of what happened between Jordan's initial retirement from the NBA in 1993 and his comeback in 1995, in which he is enlisted by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the rest of the Looney Tunes characters to help them win a basketball match against a group of aliens who want to enslave them for their amusement park.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Pytka|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Sheldon Kahn|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Family Entertainment|
|Box office||$230.4 million|
Released theatrically by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment on November 15, 1996, Space Jam received mixed reviews from critics for its merits of combining Jordan and his profession with the Looney Tunes characters, while the live-action and animated mix especially the animated basketball scenes, Jordan's performance and faithful interpretations of the Looney Tunes were praised. The film was a box office success, opening at No. 1 in the North American box office and grossing over $230 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing basketball film of all time. A sequel, titled Space Jam 2 and starring LeBron James, is scheduled for release on July 16, 2021.
In 1993, Michael Jordan announces his retirement from the NBA and professional basketball in order to follow his late father's career in baseball. Facing much less success, he is assigned a publicist/assistant, the bumbling Stan Podolak, to smooth the transition.
Elsewhere in outer space, an intergalactic amusement park named Moron Mountain is facing decline, its owner, Mr. Swackhammer, sends his diminutive minions, the Nerdlucks, to capture the Looney Tunes as new entertainment. They divebomb to the center of the earth, where the Looney Tunes' reality is hidden. Despite having powerful laser guns, the Nerdlucks are tricked into thinking that their prisoners have a chance to defend themselves, Bugs Bunny states that the challenge to decide their fates will be basketball as the Nerdlucks are too small to play. The Nerdlucks promptly steal the talents of NBA players Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues, the sudden incapacity of the five men leads to worldwide panic that results in the NBA season ending early. They try to restore their skills through practice, hospitalization, therapy and prayer, but to no avail. To intimidate the Looney Tunes, the Nerdlucks absorb the talent in front of them, transforming into monsters twice as large as them with navy blue basketball uniforms to which Sylvester dubs them the Monstars. Bugs then realizes that they're going to need professional help.
While golfing with Bill Murray, Larry Bird and Stan, Jordan is suddenly sucked down a hole and into the Looney Tunes' world by Yosemite Sam's lasso. There, the Looney Tunes are all happy to see him, despite Jordan dismissing it as a dream. Bugs uses his usual comedy to make Jordon realize he's awake, he then explains the Tunes' dire situation to him and Jordan agrees to train them as he no longer plays basketball. However, right before he can start teaching them, the Monstars break into the gym to intimidate the Tunes further, when Jordan attempts to stand up to them, the Monstars use their talent and cartoon physics to turn Jordan into a ball and humiliate him. Deciding to play against the Monstars personally, Jordan sends Bugs and Daffy Duck to retrieve his basketball gear from his home. Stan spots Bugs and Daffy and follows them to the Tunes' world, reuniting with Jordan and joining their team, the Tune Squad. Another new recruit is Lola Bunny, a skilled player with whom Bugs is instantly smitten.
On the day of the match, the Monstars dominate the first half, sinking the Looney Tunes' morale. Stan overhears the Monstars tell Swackhammer how they gained their talent, and informs the Tune Squad. Bugs and Jordan rally the team and dominate the third quarter using old-school gags and Acme weaponry. During a timeout, Jordan raises the stakes with Swackhammer: a win by the Tune Squad would require the Monstars returning their stolen talents while a win by the Monstars would earn Swackhammer Jordan as a new attraction for his amusement park. To ensure victory, Swackhammer orders the Monstars to play rough, injuring the Tune Squad until only Jordan, Bugs, Daffy, Lola and Stan remain. Stan manages to score, but is literally flattened by the Monstars and removed from the court. The referee, Marvin the Martian, informs Jordan that without a fifth player, the Tune Squad will have to forfeit. Upon arriving and volunteering, Bill Murray explains that he asked his agent to get him there. In the final seconds of the game, Jordan gains the ball but is grabbed by the Monstars during a jump to the basket. Remembering that Bugs told him that cartoon physics apply to him, he extends his arm and scores the winning points, making the Tune Squad the winner of the match.
Seeing the Monstars get yelled at by Swackhammer, Jordan helps them realize that they only listened to him because they were smaller. With the Tunes watching with satisfactory smiles, Swackhammer is encased in a rocket by the Monstars and sent back to his amusement park. Giving up their stolen talent, the Nerdlucks are recruited into the Looney Tunes ensemble and drop off Jordan and a recovered Stan at Jordan's next baseball game. Later, Jordan and Stan visit the incapacitated basketball players and return their talent to which the players provoke a reluctant Jordan into participating in a three-on-three match. Two years later in 1995, Jordan returns to the Chicago Bulls to resume his basketball career.
Some of the film's live-action cast play fictional versions of themselves:
- Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls star shooting guard, who retires from the NBA to follow in his father's footsteps in baseball.
- Brandon Hammond as 10-year-old Michael Jordan.
- Wayne Knight as Stan Podolak, a publicist and assistant who helps Jordan.
- Theresa Randle as Juanita Jordan, Michael's supportive wife.
- Bill Murray, an actor who is one of Jordan's friends.
- Larry Bird, the former Boston Celtics small and power forward, who is one of Jordan's friends.
- Charles Barkley, the Phoenix Suns power forward, who gets his talent stolen by Pound.
- Shawn Bradley, the Philadelphia 76ers center, who gets his talent stolen by Blanko.
- Patrick Ewing, the New York Knicks center, who gets his talent stolen by Bang.
- Larry Johnson, the Charlotte Hornets power forward, who gets his talent stolen by Bupkus.
- Muggsy Bogues, the Hornets point guard, who gets his talent stolen by Nawt.
- Thom Barry as James R. Jordan Sr., Michael's father.
- Penny Bae Bridges as Jasmine Jordan, Michael's daughter.
NBA players Danny Ainge, Steve Kerr, Alonzo Mourning, Horace Grant, A.C. Green, Scottie Pippen, Charles Oakley, Luc Longley, Cedric Ceballos, Derek Harper, Vlade Divac, Brian Shaw, Jeff Malone, Bill Wennington, Anthony Miller, and Sharone Wright make cameo appearances in the film, as do coaches Del Harris and Paul Westphal. Broadcasters Ahmad Rashad and Jim Rome also appear while Dan Castellaneta and Patricia Heaton cameo as basketball fans.
- Danny DeVito as Mr. Swackhammer, the main antagonist, the proprietor of the intergalactic theme park "Moron Mountain" who seeks new attractions to save his failing business.
- Billy West as Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd
- Dee Bradley Baker as Daffy Duck, Taz, and Toro
- Bob Bergen as Marvin the Martian, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Hubie and Bertie
- Bill Farmer as Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam and Sylvester
- Maurice LaMarche as Pepé Le Pew
- June Foray as Granny
- Kath Soucie as Lola Bunny, a female rabbit who plays for the Tune Squad. Lola is a new character introduced in this film.
- Frank Welker as Charles, Michael's pet bulldog who menaces both Bugs and Daffy when they arrive in Michael's house.
- Jocelyn Blue as Nerdluck Pound
- Charity James as Nerdluck Blanko
- June Melby as Nerdluck Bang
- Catherine Reitman as Nerdluck Bupkus
- Colleen Wainwright as Nerdluck Nawt, Sniffles
- Darnell Suttles as Monstar Pound
- Steve Kehela as Announcer, Monstar Blanko
- Joey Camen as Monstar Bang
- Dorian Harewood as Monstar Bupkus
- T.K. Carter as Monstar Nawt
The soundtrack sold enough albums to be certified as 6-times Platinum. 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. 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 Barry White & Chris Rock), "Pump up the Jam" (by Technotronic), "I Turn to You" (by All-4-One) and "For You I Will" (by Monica). The film's title song was performed by the Quad City DJ's.
Warner Home Video first released the film on VHS, LaserDisc and DVD on March 11, 1997. The VHS tape was reprinted 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 October 2, 2007, Space Jam for UMD Video for PSP was released. On November 6, 2007, Space Jam 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—which was 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 film-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 Space Jam Blu-ray to commemorate the film's 20th anniversary.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Space Jam currently holds a rating of 43% based on 75 reviews with an average rating of 5.31/10. The site's consensus reads, "While it's no slam dunk, Space Jam's silly, Looney Tunes-laden slapstick and vivid animation will leave younger viewers satisifed -- though accompanying adults may be more annoyed than entertained." On Metacritic, it has a score of 59 out of 100 based on reviews from 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel of the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune both gave Space Jam a thumbs up, although Siskel's zeal was more subdued. In his review, Ebert gave the film three-and a-half stars and noted, "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 that "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 as well as 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." Conversely, Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune criticized some aspects of the film, 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.)" In a dismissive review, TV Guide gave the film two stars and called 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 that "Technical spectacle amounts to nothing without a good story."
Despite the mixed reception from critics, Space Jam was a box office success. At the end of its run, it grossed approximately $90.4 million domestically and an estimated $230–$250 million internationally. As of October 2018[update], Box Office Mojo ranks it as the highest grossing basketball film of all time.
- 1997 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards
- 1997 Annie Awards
- 1997 Grammy Awards
- 1997 MTV Movie Awards
- 1997 Satellite Awards
- 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 mediaEdit
The Monstars make a cameo in the Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain 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 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.
A sequel to Space Jam was planned as early as 1997. As development began, Space Jam 2 was going to involve a new basketball competition between the Looney Tunes and a new villain named Berserk-O!. Artist Bob Camp was tasked with designing Berserk-O! and his henchmen. Joe Pytka would have returned to direct and Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone signed on as the animation supervisors. However, Michael Jordan did not agree to star in a sequel. According to Camp, a producer lied to design artists by claiming that Jordan had signed on in order to keep development going. Warner Bros. eventually canceled plans for Space Jam 2. The film then reentered development as Spy Jam and was to star Jackie Chan in a different script. The studio was also planning a film titled Race Jam which would have starred Jeff Gordon. Additionally, Space Jam director Joe Pytka revealed that following the first film's success, he had been pitched a story for a sequel that would have starred professional golfer Tiger Woods, with Jordan in a smaller role. Pytka explained how the idea came from an out of studio script conference, with people who worked on the original film allegedly involved. Producer Ivan Reitman was reportedly in favor of a film which would again star Jordan. The follow-up films were ultimately cancelled in favor of Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). A film titled Skate Jam was in early development with Tony Hawk in the starring role. Plans were underway for production to begin immediately following the release of Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but was cancelled given the poor financial reception to said film despite improved critical reception.
In February 2014, Warner Bros. officially announced development of a sequel that will star LeBron James. Charlie Ebersol was set to produce, while Willie Ebersol wrote the script. By May of the same year, James was quoted as saying, "I've always loved Space Jam. It was one of my favorite movies growing up. If I have the opportunity, it will be great." In July 2015, James and his film studio, SpringHill Entertainment, signed a deal with Warner Bros. for television, film and digital content after receiving positive reviews for his role in Trainwreck. By 2016, Justin Lin signed onto the project as director, and co-screenwriter with Andrew Dodge and Alfredo Botello. In November 2016, a teaser trailer in the form of a Nike advertisement, was released on Twitter under #MonstarsBack. Later in December, Bugs Bunny and the Monstars appeared in a Foot Locker commercial starring Blake Griffin and Jimmy Butler. By August 2018, Lin left the project, and Terence Nance was hired to direct the film. In September 2018, Ryan Coogler was announced as a producer for the film. SpringHill Entertainment released a promotional teaser image officially announcing the film, with production set to begin on June 17, 2019 during the NBA off-season. Filming will take place in California and will shoot within a 30 mile radius of Los Angeles. Prior to production, the film received $21.8 million in tax credits as a result of a new tax incentive program from the state. By February 2019, after releasing the official logo with a promotional poster, the film studios involved have Space Jam 2 scheduled for release on July 16, 2021.
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