Swackhammer (Danny DeVito), an evil alien theme park owner, needs a new attraction at Moron Mountain. When his gang, the Nerdlucks, heads to Earth to kidnap Bugs Bunny (Billy West) and the Looney Tunes, Bugs challenges them to a basketball game to determine their fate. The aliens agree, but they steal the powers of NBA basketball players, including Larry Bird (Larry Bird) and Charles Barkley (Charles Barkley) — so Bugs gets some help from superstar Michael Jordan (Michael Jordan).
Although I don’t personally believe in the term “guilty pleasure”, if I did, Joe Pytka’s Space Jam would have to be one of my biggest guilty pleasure movies of all time. From the moment it starts all the way up to its zany and out-of-this-world weird ending, the film is a genuine blast that always leaves me smiling like a kid looking around in the world’s biggest candy store. I mean, really, what’s not to love about a movie that’s all about Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes gang playing an epic basketball match against a group of evil aliens?
It’s another one of those movies like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? where it’s a blend of live-action as well as animation, and there are a lot of them out there, but this is easily my favorite one. One of the reasons why Space Jam is a legitimately enjoyable movie and not some dumpster fire of incredible proportions is because the screenwriters, as well as director Joe Pytka, understand how goofy this story is and they fully embrace that. Space Jam never once tries to be anything more than a goofy basketball comedy starring Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes characters.
Had this film attempted to be genuinely moving or dramatic, it would have failed immensely. It’s kind of hard to take a movie seriously when it’s really just about Looney Tunes characters facing off against aliens in a basketball match, and you don’t have to take it seriously because the filmmakers never expect you to.
There are plenty of hilarious and memorable scenes sprinkled all throughout the film that still make me laugh all these years later. Michael Jordan’s acting skills aren’t the grandest to be fair, but I still think that he was the perfect person for this movie. If they chose another NBA basketball star for the film, it just wouldn’t have had the same impact.
And something that not many people talk about is Wayne Knight’s role here. He is sadly always going to be typecast as Newman on the sitcom Seinfeld, but here, Knight is truly funny to watch even if he kind of feels like he is still playing Newman. He gets some of the funniest bits in the film, with the exception of one ridiculously weird and out-of-place scene at the end that features some absolutely atrocious CGI, much like the rest of the movie.
Space Jam is not a perfect movie by any means necessary. If you really wanted to pick this movie apart piece by piece, you could do so extremely easily. But there is so much more to enjoy here than to hate.
Overall Grade: B
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild cartoon language
Directed by: Joe Pytka
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: November 15, 1996
Running Time: 88 minutes