The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday December 5th

'Space Jam' is less than a slam dunk

“All over the world wherever you go it’s Michael Jordan, 23 and North Carolina.”  Dick Baddour,  UNC athletic director
Buy Photos “All over the world wherever you go it’s Michael Jordan, 23 and North Carolina.” Dick Baddour, UNC athletic director

Looney Tunes live in the center of the Earth in the Space Jam canon. This is a reality the film demands you accept and a good litmus test for how much you’ll get out of the movie.

If you understand that the Earth’s magma core is actually an animated universe, you’re ready to come on and slam. If you refuse to understand, you will never do your dance at the Space Jam.

OK.

"Space Jam" is a 1996 movie where Michael Jordan is enlisted by a host of Looney Tunes to play a basketball game against alien monsters (aptly named the Monstars) in order to prevent themselves from being enslaved in an intergalactic amusement park. Marvin the Martian, as both Looney and alien, acts as the referee.

The Monstars are good at basketball because they steal the skills of players like Charles Barkley and Muggsy Bogues, as aliens are wont to do. I won’t spoil the finale, but it involves Bill Murray saving the day. 

Plot is not an important part of "Space Jam".

Surprisingly, this movie was not created by throwing darts at a board and figuring out what worked (mostly). In fact, there’s a high probability that the movie owes its existence to a string of ads made to sell Air Jordan shoes. 

The ads all feature MJ himself having misadventures alongside Bugs Bunny to demonstrate the incredible basketball prowess that Air Jordans grant the wearer (kind of like the plot of 2002 film "Like Mike"). 

The film is like an hour and a half of that, and the end result feels like a business executive’s fever dream.

"Space Jam" might be obvious ad placement, but it’s a flick with a lineage. The '90s loved the NBA. This animated/live action nightmare falls firmly into the “Poorly-Developed Movies about Basketball” category of '90s media, standing proudly alongside "The Sixth Man," "Celtic Pride" and Shaq-starring films like "Kazaam" and "Steel." 

Aesthetically, "Space Jam" is everything that made the '90s what they were: every facet of it is primed for manufacturing toys, the color scheme is garish to say the least, Danny DeVito’s in it and the resolution involves CGI that… hasn’t aged well.

The movie makes sure to involve the seemingly endless number of characters in the Looney Tunes mythos, but it goes a step further and introduces a new Looney in the form of Lola Bunny, Bugs Bunny’s love interest (there’s an academic essay to be written about how this impacts Bugs Bunny’s history as a queer-coded character, but this is not that essay). 

The ad placement, bad CGI and the cameo of Newman from Seinfeld can all be brushed past or even enjoyed by a dedicated Space Jam fan. Not easily, but nostalgia is powerful that way.

Lola Bunny cannot be so easily ignored. The worst (or best, I guess, I won’t judge you) part of "Space Jam" is Lola Bunny. She is one of the few Looney Tunes in the film actually good at basketball — but, more importantly, she is a sexy rabbit. There’s no way around this obstacle. This will forever be an elephant in the room, provided that room is a conversation about "Space Jam".

Lola Bunny was very purposefully designed to be hot. Teens had their sexual awakening to this rabbit. Lola Bunny is the only animated design aimed at children more obviously horny than a Don Bluth flood scene, and this is the world we live in.

In short, "Space Jam" isn’t good. It is in no way a well-crafted movie. “Nonsensical” is a better descriptor. 

Thankfully, it is most definitely fun, particularly if you grew up with it on a well-worn VHS tape like so many '90s kids (including myself) did. And maybe that’s all it needs to be.

In these trying times, putting on a pair of rose-colored glasses and bathing yourself in the Technicolor glow of Foghorn Leghorn experiencing the placebo effect provides a much-needed oasis. So, whether or not you think it’s bad, go ahead: get wild, lose your mind and take this thing into overtime.

@contrecoupdetat

swerve@dailytarheel.com

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