In order to really crack into the depths of Space Jam‘s insanity, I needed to not only re-watch it, but do so with a fine tooth comb and a magnifying glass in hand. By the end of the movie, my brain started to slip into Looney Tunes land. I took notes and jotted down all my thoughts during the movie, pointing out the wildest moments and biggest mysteries.
Could you cut the first scene between young Michael and his dad? Probably. All it does is explain why he wants to play baseball. The movie is only 87 minutes long, so we’re keeping everything. Nothing can be cut. If they filmed it, it’s in the movie.
Reminder, right up top. The top 3 billed actors in this movie are a basketball player, a fictional rabbit, and the 5th lead from Seinfeld. Let’s do this.
Like I said, this movie is short. So we get 3 minutes of opening credits. Like it’s James Bond or something. But this song rules, so it’s cool with me. I’d talk more about the song, but that’s coming later this week.
We cut to cartoon world. To the characters we know and love? No, of course not. We’re introducing a new world, full of new characters. But Danny DeVito is here, so it’s ok.
Another drastic cut, this time from Moron Mountain (seriously) to baseball, where things are great. In fact, and I’m dead serious when I say this, I’d watch a whole movie about Jordan playing for this team.
First we get the coaches, who have some fun little banter. I’d watch 100 episodes of these guys in a sitcom.
Then the opposing catcher attempts to groove Mike a pitch and whispers when to swing. For a kids’ movie, it’s a decent bit.
Then the entire bench lauds Jordan for his “good looking strikeout.”
We get characters with one line each, but who somehow have personality. Someone remind me why we have to leave this scene. Oh, right. Cartoon aliens are going to kidnap beloved fictional characters. Can’t forget that. That’s the plot.
Newman, yes I’m going to call him Newman, introduces himself as the team’s new publicist. He adds that anything Jordan needs, he’ll handle. Dry cleaning, babysitting, and especially making sure no one bothers Jordan. OK, so we’re leaning on the fact that children have no idea what a publicist is or what they do.
A spaceship flies over the stadium. Everyone sees it and reacts. The game continues.
The spaceship flies over a Piggly Wiggly, then burrows into its parking lot. I’m willing to bet we never find out what happened to the Piggly Wiggly or any of its patrons.
At some point I should mention that I laugh pretty much every time one of the three high voiced, mini-pre-Monstars talks. (I’ve seen them called “Nerdlucks” elsewhere, but you’re high if you think I’m going to use that word.) The (spoiler alert) Barkley and Bradley ones I can take or leave. The little squeaky green, purple, and maroon ones make me at little crack a nostalgic smile every couple minutes.
Hey, it’s Bugs Bunny. The second highest billed star of our film.
Newman just said the word Piccadillos? Did I spell that right? I can’t believe it happened.
The Jordans own a dog name Charles. We never connect this to Charles Barkley, but that has to be the joke here, right? Charles Barkley is in this movie! Name the dog Shaq or Magic!
Mrs. Jordan knows how many points her son’s batting average changed by after his game that day, but doesn’t know what his batting average stands at now (“.685 or something…”). I noticed this because I’m watching this movie way too closely. I’m Space Jam Icarus.
You know how dads have the same response every time they hear a phrase? As I grow older, though childless, I feel myself doing the same. And this has been a standby for me. Any time I ask what is for dinner and the answer is “chicken”, I have to reply “Chicken and what?”. It’s my curse.
JIM ROME IS IN THIS MOVIE. And still getting checks for it!
In 1996, we are supposed to believe this is the television in Michael Jordan’s living room.
I stayed away from attacking his “very nice, but not super mansion” house while Newman fawned over it. But the TV is where I draw the line.
So the entire Looney Tune world is gathered and 5 of the characters head behind the curtain to strategize. Bugs (obvious), Daffy (ditto), Porky Pig (ok…), Elmer Fudd (world class dunce), and Sylvester the Cat (psychopath). Who might have been better options? No idea. These might be the only five coherent English speakers in the bunch, and that’s pushing it.
Bugs and the boys figure out that the aliens are tiny and would stink at basketball, but seem to forget that they themselves are not the 1983 Sixers. This may come back to haunt them.
Can’t tell you how many times I’ve said these words, in this manner:
It’s important to note that sitting next to the aliens at the Knicks-Suns game are Deborah from Everybody Loves Raymond and the voice of Homer Simpson.
So, the aliens steal Charles Barkley’s talent, but that doesn’t explain why Danny Ainge did this:
Then immediately following, he grabs Barkely and yells at him!
No, Danny. It’s you who’s killing the team. You just threw the ball at the rim blindly with tons of time on the shot clock! You know what, I gotta break that down further and I need a ton of words. That’s getting its own post.
Charles Oakley calls Patrick Ewing “Baby”.
Why didn’t any of them steal his talent? Not his basketball talent, his “settling gambling debts” talent.
Though in Vlade’s defense, this may also explain the Nik Stauskas trade.
Thufferin Thuccotash! They’re Mon-stars! Possibly the most underrated reason this movie is successful is that portmanteau right there. Full disclosure: I had Monstars bedsheets as a child.
Bill Murray is here and he’s ready to steal the show. Don’t underestimate how important injecting a real movie star into this mess turns things around. He breathes life into every moment he’s on-screen. Were they to cast some schmo in the role, the movie could have taken a nosedive.
A master at work:
Murray (after Jordan denies Murray could play in the NBA): Is it because I’m white?
Jordan: Larry is white.
Jordan hits his hole-in-one BUT TAKES THE FLAG OUT BEFORE THE BALL. PENALTY! A gambler like Mike would never make that mistake.
So Jordan gets sucked into Looney Tune Land, and all the characters are familiar with him. Are they watching the NBA down there? Big fantasy hoops league?
Murray: Larry, I’m going to give us both twos back there. We weren’t in any kind of emotional state to putt.
This is the best part of the movie.
Following the “Spit Shine” scene, I wouldn’t be surprised if America’s parents had to deal with an epidemic of spitting children trying to clean their rooms.
The super tall Shawn Bradley Monstar is so stupid. Did anyone from Shawn Bradley’s camp approve this movie before it was released? Did Shawn Bradley have a camp?
Is the pick up game that Charles Barkley stumbles by the best women’s basketball scene in film history? Is there any competition other than Disney’s Double Teamed?
Every other women’s basketball movie or scene ever, BE GONE! WANNABES! BE GONE!
Psychiatrist: Are there any other areas, besides basketball…
Barry White (soulfully singing on the soundtrack): YEAH
Psychiatrist: …that you are having difficulty performing?
Patrick Ewing: NO!
That’s right, folks. Our first sex joke! (Unless you count Sylvester yelling “WE’VE GOT BALLS!” in the last scene, which I don’t.)
It’s this very moment where this movie turns from “stupid children’s movie with a dumb premise” to “What am I watching and who made this piece of garbage art?”. Namely, we are meeting Lola Bunny. She’s the only character Warner Brothers felt the need to specifically create for this movie. Their motives are obvious. Every movie needs a romantic lead. And with Jordan being married, they looked to their second biggest star, Bugs Bunny. So instead of having a subplot about Jordan missing his wife and them having a loving embrace to end the film, we get a sexy rabbit who is good at basketball.
She enters wearing a half shirt and within minutes of meeting her, Tweety Bird says, “Ooh, she’s HOT!”
But she immediately becomes a feminist icon, as the only Looney Tune with basketball experience and she can dunk. The Warner Brothers marketing people who created her must laugh every time they reads an article about Marvel struggling to sell a female superhero. Lola Bunny is simultaneously the most sexist and most progressive character in children’s movie history. She is a cinema legend.
For some reason, right after dunking, she leaves. No word on if she made the team. Just mic drop and get out of there.
The Tunes elect Bugs and Daffy to head to Jordan’s house to pick up his basketball gear. Much in the same way that real nerds wish Game of Thrones would spend more time discussing the politics and specifics of its universe, I really want to know how these decisions are made. Did they volunteer? Was there a vote? What am I talking about? Why am I doing any of this?
Bugs: The Looney Tunes have a big basketball game and your dad is gonna play.
Michael Jordan’s Son: ALL RIGHT!
Hey, kid. Maybe don’t be so jazzed up about some strange creatures kidnapping your dad. Or maybe show an OUNCE of disbelief about the fact that you’re talking to a cartoon character.
I’m not entirely sure why the writers/producers chose to have the other four players separate themselves from Charles Barkley for most of the movie. Was Barkley busy during the film schedule? Or did they really just want to have him stand out on his own?
In either case, we miss out on the chance to have Charles talk to a psychic.
Hey, Newman made it to Looney Tune Land! I wonder if Wayne Knight considered staying there after filming ended. He’d fit in nicely.
Stan: I may not be tall, but I’m slow!
Sylvester: And large.
Daffy Duck: And a dork.
This is when the Looney Tunes are great. Kids love when they goof around and do physically silly things, but when they are truly funny, it’s because they are witty and even downright mean. No Mickey Mousified Disney character or Muppet would ever be that cutting.
The NBA commissioner is here to make an announcement. Three weird things about this:
- Bill Murray mentioned David Stern earlier. This is not David Stern.
- He starts his press conference by yelling “QUIET!”. Really need someone to do this in real life.
- His right hand man? Coach Tugnut from “Even Stevens”.
There are 37 minutes of movie left, and we are at game time. 42% of the movie remains and we are about to start the climactic game. I’d love to compare this to other sports movies, but I just spent 5 weeks writing about Space Jam. My brain is fried.
Not only is there an arena in Looney Tune Land, but there’s traffic leading up to it? Anything is possible in this universe and even they haven’t figured out stadium traffic flow. Build a rail system or something. I should run for mayor of this fictional cartoon city.
As Jordan gazes at his teammates, I have to wonder, why didn’t they recruit any more NBA players? Did they have a minimum number of Looney Tunes on the court, like a coed softball league? Couldn’t he have called Scottie at least? Spoiler alert, Bill Murray is allowed to play for the team later, but for some reason, Mike couldn’t even get Ron Harper involved.
Your Tune Squad starting lineup:
- Tazmanian Devil
- Lola, who enters in the most overtly sexual way that I am physically disgusted
- Daffy Duck, who is listed at power forward. He’s a stretch four.
- Bugs Bunny, 4’ tall if you include the ears
- Michael Jordan
I would have paid good money to sit in on the meeting in which they decided on the Looney Tunes’ jersey numbers. Elmer Fudd is #53!
The Monstars enter as a team, like the New England Patriots. I think I’m rooting for them. I mentioned the bedsheets already.
I know I’m doing the whole “Guy looking for goofs” shtick, but we don’t need me pointing out basketball flaws in this movie right? Like the fact that the Monstars are all number 0? Or that they are committing heinous fouls on every play? It’s probably easier for me to tell you when things that are legal basketball moves happen.
It is impossible to determine who are the five Tune Squad players on the court at any moment. The game just started and I’ve seen at least 8 different players in the lineup.
I’ve never in my life heard someone call another human being “doll” and yet it has now happened twice in this movie to Lola and she gets incredibly offended both times. I like that most of this movie takes place in 1995, but the sexism is imported from 1948.
Inexplicably, there’s a Pulp Fiction homage in this movie. I have no idea who that was intended for.
The Tunes start the second half on a 48-2 run. Timeout Monstars.
It is at this moment, where Michael Jordan wagers his own life instead of the Looney Tunes, that this movie becomes more insane, but also makes PERFECT SENSE. A children’s movie about cartoons and aliens now hinges on Michael Jordan’s intense gambling addiction. He couldn’t resist! He sees the Monstars bet and raises them. As a kid, he seemed like a hero, trying to save the Tunes. Now I know he was just a junkie, looking for that gambling rush.
The Monstars proceed to just turn the game into a barroom brawl. They are basically the 90’s Knicks. Between the previous timeout and the next one, no one even attempts a shot. It’s just a violence montage. Included in the middle is the romantic payoff of the movie as we finally get our Bugs-Lola kiss. No one wanted this. If you did, look in the mirror and examine some things.
This is, more than likely, the last time you’ve ever seen Lola. Unless you were regularly tuning into The Looney Tunes show from 2011-2014, she hasn’t really ever appeared again. Sadly, they totally changed here character in future iterations to a ditzy, flirty teenage girl. Unsadly, she was voiced in those future iterations by KRISTIN FRIGGIN WIIG. I think it’s very important that you know that I learned all of this from Wikipedia while writing this post. I don’t have a dearth of Lola Bunny knowledge.
(As Bill Murray enters)
Mr. Swackhammer: Woah, woah, woah. I didn’t know Dan Akroyd was in this picture.
This is a fun thing to say during any Dan Akroyd or Bill Murray movie. I highly recommend it.
Bill Murray: Woah, I don’t play defense.
This is a fun thing to say while playing recreational sports. I highly recommend it.
The ball is inbounded with 10 seconds left on the clock.
We head into slow motion, with time still on the clock. 40 seconds have passed. After a few moments in slow-mo, the clock reads :05.
Ball drops in. Tunes win! The final 10 seconds of game play took 1 minute and 14 seconds.
Michael Jordan (to Bill Murray): You’ve really got some skills! You might be able to play in the NBA!
This is arguably the funniest joke in this movie.
HOW COME WHEN STAN TOUCHES THE MAGIC BALL HE DOESN’T GET ALL THE NBA PLAYERS POWERS?? I WANT THAT MOVIE! SUPER NEWMAN!!
Michael Jordan lands in the baseball stadium in a spaceship. No one really reacts. They all just cheer.
Michael finds the other NBA guys and tries to give them their talent back. How do you write this movie without having them accidentally get each others’ talent? I came here for cartoon shenanigans, but I’d stay for Shawn Bradley playing like Muggsy Bogues.
Ah, possibly the most fun hypothetical of the movie. Charles asks Jordan to stick around and play some 3 on 3. With these six guys, how are you splitting teams? Muggsy has to guard Jordan, which is absurd, but he has no chance on anyone else. So he should also get the two other best players. Bogues, Barkley, and Ewing against Jordan, LJ, and Bradley? Who ya got?
(I’ll take Jordan’s team).
Let’s go Bu–ulls.
This movie is garbage. It ends with 8 minutes of end credits. There’s only like, 75 minutes of actual movie. And all of it is ridiculous.
But if they do make another one, I will see it on opening night.
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.
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