Plot: In the far reaches of outer space sits Swackhammer, a greedy business tycoon who owns and operates Moron Mountain, an amusement park that draws in all kinds of intergalactic guests. But his business has been tapering off, so he knows a new attraction is needed and he wants a real showstopper. As he watches television, he sees the Looney Tunes and knows he has found his new attraction, as his customers will love to see the zany characters perform. Swackhammer plans to abduct the Looney Tunes and force them to work in his park, but Bugs Bunny has other plans and challenges them to a showdown, with freedom on the line. Bugs chooses basketball, as Swackhammer’s goons are small thugs, but of course, their boss has a plan and steals the talent from NBA stars, empowering his goons. Now the Looney Tunes need a miracle, so Bugs turns to the best, Michael Jordan for some help.
Entertainment Value: This 90s family movie was a success at the box office, but has also remained popular in the decades to follow and over time, became a kind of cult classic with fans of oddball cinema. The movie still has all the appeal of a family friendly film of this kind should, but Space Jam is filled with strange moments and has a offbeat vibe in most scenes. The narrative hinges on the intergalactic basketball game, but also invests time to unfold a rushed Michael Jordan biography thread, including his youth and his humorous baseball run. In essence, this feels like a odd infomercial for Jordan that just happens to involved beloved cartoon characters. But it all works, as Jordan is a natural fit for Space Jam narrative and the movie’s sense of humor is effective, steeped in that Looney Tunes magic. I mean, how many movies offer this kind of madness, with Michael Jordan leading a basketball squad that includes Daffy Duck, Wayne Knight, and Bill Murray against alien slavers? Space Jam is a lot of fun and has held up well, whether you appreciate it for the silly Looney Tunes mayhem, family friendly laughs, or off the wall elements.
The performances here won’t win any awards, but the live action cast embraces the silliness and delivers on that front. Michael Jordan keeps a straight face throughout and that is quite a feat, as he might not be a skilled thespian, but he treats this wackiness as if it was dead serious business. He also plays off his own image well and isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at himself, which helps the humor at times. Bill Murray is hilarious, despite an odd performance that seems very reserved, even overly so. But it works and Murray steals a number of scenes in Space Jam. The cast also includes Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle, numerous NBA stars, and of course, the wonderful Looney Tunes crew, who roll deep in this one. The animation aspect looks terrific, with the classic Looney Tunes design approach and the humor stays in that world as well, so the various characters always seem right at home. The blending of live action and animation is solid as well, often pulling on mixing the cartoon world rules into the real world, which adds a lot of fun moments. So even if you’re just here for some Looney Tunes laughs, you should be well satisfied here.