In 1995, Michael Jordan had just quit baseball and announced he was returning to basketball in March. He had been away from the NBA for 18 months and took the court with the Chicago Bulls against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis, scoring 19 points. He suited up in his No. 23 and would lead the Bulls to their fourth championship and be named MVP in June 1996. If you find joy in Michael Jordan and his genial personality and love the “Looney Tunes,” this film will be a diversion through Warner Bros. branding with a fun family friendly message. This is not about good acting although there are some good actors involved.
“Space Jam” premiered on 15 November 1996 in Hollywood. The film begins in 1973 with a young Michael Jordan (Brandon Hammond as Jordan at ten years of age) telling his father (Thom Barry) the future he sees for himself which includes The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and the National Basketball Association. Archival footage shows the real Jordan’s progression through high school, college, two Olympics (1984 and 1992) and his career with the Chicago Bulls. Then there’s the announcement of his retirement and that detour into baseball.
In outer space, an amusement park called Moron Mountain needs some star attractions. Its owner, Mr. Swackhammer (Danny DeVito) sends a group of short squatty workers, the Nerdlucks to Earth to abduct the Looney Tunes. In Looney Tune land, the Nerdlucks accept a challenge from Bugs Bunny (Billy West)–basketball.
What the Looney Tunes don’t know is that the Nerdlucks can transform themselves by stealing the talents of various NBA greats like Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues. The basketball players try a variety of methods to get back in the game, but to no avail. Bugs Bunny recruits Jordan and Jordan shapes up the Looney Tunes into the Tune Squad and adds a new character, the lovely and basketball wiz Lola (Kath Soucie).
Of course, Jordan and his team will win Nerdlucks will return the powers to the basketball greats. And as we all know, Jordan will return to basketball. The film ends there and we all know that was a happy ending.
Besides Bugs, West voices Elmer Fudd. Dee Bradley Baker voices Daffy Duck and the Tasmanian devil. Bob Bergen voices Porky Pig, Tweety Bird and Marvin the Martian. Bill Farmer voices, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn. June Foray voices Granny. Maurice LaMarche is Pepé Le Pew.
Jordan’s film family is entirely fictional. Theresa Randal is Juanita Jordan, Manner Washington is Jordan’s son Jeffrey, Eric Gordon is Jordan’s son Marcus and Penny Bae Bridges is Jordan’s daughter Jasmine. Wayne Knight plays Jordan’s publicist and assistant and Bill Murray plays himself, as a golfing buddy of Jordan.
This is a family film with plenty of product placement. Today’s kids might now know who Michael Jordan was beyond his shoes, but this is an opportunity to tell them. “Space Jam” is currently available to stream on Hulu.