Space Jam is a 1996 American live-action/animated sports comedy film directed by Joe Pytka and starring basketball player Michael Jordan. The film presents a fictionalized account of what happened between Jordan's initial retirement from the NBA in 1993 and his 1995 comeback, in which he is enlisted by the Looney Tunes to help them win a basketball match against a group of aliens who intend to enslave them as attractions for their theme park. Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle and Bill Murray appear in supporting roles, while Billy West, Dee Bradley Baker and Danny DeVito headline the voice cast.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Pytka|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Sheldon Kahn|
Northern Lights Entertainment
Courtside Seats Entertainment
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$230.4 million|
Released theatrically by Warner Bros. through their Family Entertainment division on November 15, 1996, Space Jam received mixed reviews from critics but was a box office success, opening at number one at 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: A New Legacy and starring LeBron James, is scheduled for release on July 16, 2021.
In 1973, a young Michael Jordan tells his father that he wants to go to The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to play in the championship team, then go to the NBA. A compilation of highlights from Jordan's basketball career from his high school years to his years with the Chicago Bulls, is followed by an excerpt from the 1993 press conference in which Jordan announced his retirement from professional basketball, to pursue a career in baseball, in which Jordan is popular, but less skilled. Meanwhile, in outer space, the amusement park Moron Mountain faces decline. Its owner, Mr. Swackhammer, sends his diminutive minions, the Nerdlucks, to Earth to abduct the Looney Tunes as a new attraction. Upon the Nerdlucks' arrival, Bugs Bunny and the other Looney Tunes take advantage of the Nerdlucks' small stature and challenge them to a game of basketball. Through a cursory course on the definition of basketball, the Nerdlucks learn that the sport's best players are employed by the NBA, and accept the proposal. After stealing the talents of NBA players Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues, the Nerdlucks transform themselves into the large, muscular and talented Monstars, which prompts Bugs to seek professional aid.
While golfing with Bill Murray and Larry Bird and his personal assistant, Stan Podolack, Jordan is suddenly lassoed down a hole and into the Looney Tunes' world. Bugs explains the situation to Jordan, whom hope is placed on as one of the best basketball players in the world. Although Jordan is initially reluctant, he agrees to play after a confrontation with the Monstars insults his pride, and organizes the Looney Tunes into a team, the "Tune Squad". He sends Bugs and Daffy back to his house to obtain his basketball gear, where Stan sees them and follows them back to the cartoon world, and Michael reluctantly agrees to let him help. Meanwhile, the sudden incapacity of the five NBA players 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. On the day of the match, the Monstars dominate the first half, sinking the Tune Squad's morale. Stan overhears about how the Monstars obtained their talent and informs Jordan. Bugs and Jordan rally the Tune Squad 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.
With ten seconds left in the game, the Tune Squad are down by one point, and one player, due to most of them being injured from the Monstars' rough playing. Bill Murray unexpectedly arrives, and is recruited to fill the spot. In the final seconds, Jordan gains the ball with Murray's help, but is pulled back by the Monstars. Remembering advice from Bugs, he uses cartoon physics to extend his arm and dunk the ball, winning the match. Seeing the Monstars being reprimanded by Swackhammer, Jordan helps them realize that they only listened to him because they were smaller. The Monstars encase Swackhammer in a missile and send him back to his amusement park. Giving up their stolen talent, the Nerdlucks are recruited into the Looney Tunes ensemble and drop off Jordan at his next baseball game. Later, Jordan visits the incapacitated basketball players and returns 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 as 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.
- Manner Washington as Jeffrey Jordan, Jordan’s son.
- Eric Gordon as Marcus Jordan, Jordan's son.
- 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 and Jeffrey, Marcus and Jasmine's grandfather.
- Penny Bae Bridges as Jasmine Jordan, Michael's daughter.
NBA players Danny Ainge, Steve Kerr, Alonzo Mourning, Horace Grant, A. C. Green, 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.
- Billy West as Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd
- Dee Bradley Baker as Daffy Duck, Taz and Toro the Bull
- Danny DeVito as Mr. Swackhammer, the film's main antagonist, the proprietor of the intergalactic theme park "Moron Mountain" who seeks new attractions to save his failing business.
- Bob Bergen as Hubie and Bertie, Marvin the Martian, Porky Pig and Tweety
- Bill Farmer as Sylvester, Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn
- Greg Burson as Elmer Fudd and Foghorn Leghorn (some scenes) (uncredited)
- June Foray as Granny and Witch Hazel
- Maurice LaMarche as Pepe Le Pew
- Paul Julian as Road Runner (archive recordings)
- Kath Soucie as Lola Bunny, a female rabbit who plays for the Tune Squad. Lola is a new character introduced in this film.
- 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 and Sniffles
- Dorian Harewood as Monstar Bupkus
- Joey Camen as Monstar Bang
- T.K. Carter as Monstar Nawt
- Darnell Suttles as Monstar Pound
- Steve Kehela as Monstar Blanko / Announcer
- Frank Welker as Barnyard Dawg and Charles the Dog, Michael's pet bulldog who menaces Bugs and Daffy when they arrive at Michael's house.
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.
There was also an original scoring soundtrack featured most of the scores from the movie, except the main Merrie Melodies Theme itself.
Warner Home Video released the film on VHS, DVD and LaserDisc 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.
Space Jam later expanded into a media franchise which includes comics, video games and merchandise. The Space Jam franchise is estimated to have generated $6 billion in total revenue. This includes a wide variety of merchandise, such as Air Jordans, Bugs Bunny shirts, Happy Meals, Mugsy Bogues jerseys, and Tweety gowns.
The film was adapted into a graphic novel published by DC Comics through their imprint "Warner Bros Reading" that published the "Looney Tunes", "Tiny Toon Adventures", "Animaniacs" and "Pinky & The Brain" monthly comic books. The special issue was written by David Cody Weiss and drawn by Leonardo Batic.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 43% approval rating based on 75 reviews, with an average rating of 5.32/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "While it's no slam dunk, Space Jam's silly, Looney Toons-laden slapstick and vivid animation will leave younger viewers satisfied – though accompanying adults may be more annoyed than entertained." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 59 out of 100 based on 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel of the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune both gave Space Jam a thumbs up, although Siskel's praise was more reserved. 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." 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."
- 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 Pinky and the Brain episode "Star Warners". 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, Jordan did not agree to star in a sequel, and Warner Bros. eventually canceled plans for Space Jam 2.
Several potential sequels, including Spy Jam with Jackie Chan, that would end up becoming the basis for Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Race Jam with Jeff Gordon, a golf-centered film with Tiger Woods, and Skate Jam with Tony Hawk were all discussed but never came to be.
In February 2014, Warner Bros. officially announced development of a sequel that will star LeBron James. 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. 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. Filming would take place in California and 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.
In February 2019, after releasing the official logo with a promotional poster, Space Jam 2 was announced to be scheduled for release on July 16, 2021. Principal photography began on June 25, 2019. On April 30, 2020, James revealed the title for the film would be "Space Jam: A New Legacy".
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