Space Jam

(Bloggers note: I suggest listening to this song while reading the blog. There, isn’t that better? )

Space Jam is a near perfect movie.

In the past year it has become something very important to me; a frame of reference I equate to the yesteryears, a nostalgic romp around nineties culture. I was never into Space Jam as a kid, but one watch as an adult a few months back has suddenly filled me with such an immense joy that over time I had this overwhelming urge to dissect the joy and understand why the joy existed. I mean, it’s just a stupid movie, right? And I wasn’t even into basketball when I was a kid and it first came out. And who the hell is Wayne Knight? I was stumped with this question of adoration. Why? Why such sudden fulfilling love from an old kids flick? Why did I suddenly care so much about this movie’s existence? I needed to investigate further.

And so Space Jam is what I want to write about today.

Space Jam is an animated adventure comedy made in 1996 starring basketball super star Michael Jordan and the Looney Toons gang which includes Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. According to imdb, the plot of the film is as follows: “Michael Jordan agrees to help the Looney Toons play a basketball game vs. alien slavers to determine their freedom.”

That sentence is reason #1 why Space Jam is amaze-balls.

I could go into the shallow joys of the film. I could oogle over the 90’s style cartoon shading that was at the brink of CGI animation but essentially made every character look, well, shadowy.

I could fawn over Michael Jordan’s terrible acting skills, and fantastically defend him. (“I’m sorry, but Michael was a little busy KICKING ASS at two professional sports to waste time with some Stanslavski training, okay? Besides, he was essentially acting to NOTHING, and do you know how hard it is to smooch a bunny when it is NOT. EVEN. THERE?? Also, what a good sport he was to even consider doing Space Jam. Acting is not his vocation, dunking is. Besides, it’s for the kiddies, after all. It’s all for the joy of the kiddies. And p.s. he was bad acting himself ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK, SONNNNNNNNNNNN.”)

I could dwell on Danny Devito being the alien villain, Newman (Oh THAT’S who Wayne Knight is…) being a super fan, and Bill Murray being, well, there. (Daffy: Just how did you get here, anyway?  Bill Murray: Producer’s a friend of mine. He sent a Teamster to drop me off. )

I could dive into the actual fantastical plot of the film. Yes, there are criminal aliens (not just regular aliens, shady criminal aliens) who are going to make the toons slaves and for some reason basketball is the toons only to be free despite the fact that the Loony Toons have never before had a running basketball theme in their history and p.s. the criminal aliens slavers prep for the game by stealing the mad b-ball skills of other NBA players and also Michael gets sucked into Loony Toons world by playing golf and finally let’s call the whole thing Space Jame for no other reason than because it sounds cool. (So. Awesome.)

I could relay the randomness that is Lola, the sexy girl version of Bug Bunny who is really good at basketball and also has boobs. I mean, come on, she has bunny boobs. And p.s. isn’t the girl version of Bugs Bunny, like, Bugs Bunny?

I could talk about the origins of Space Jam, which began as a series of commercials starring Jordan and Marvin the Martian. The movie came from a commercial. I repeat, the movie came from a commercial.

I could acknowledge Ivan Reitman as the producer. That’s right, the man who directed Ghostbusters produced Space Jam. (Hence Murray’s line. See above.)

I could pick apart the opening sequence, a flashback to Michael Jordan’s childhood, as picturesque and pure as our image of Honest Abe in his log cabin. Seeing little Mike shooting hoops in his undistinguishable farm-like backyard, and just knowing that young Jordan was going to become a legend, as demonstrated by R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” blasting in the background, is enough to make a grown man weep. And you WILL fight back tears when the actor who symbolizes his father comes out with encouraging basketball words, pretending you as an audience member don’t know what happened to Michael’s dad in real life. Man, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of.

I definitely could point out how hilarious and snarky Daffy is the entire movie and how satisfying Taz is when he realizes he can go all Devil on the basketball court.

I could chat about the moral of the story, which was essentially Michael Jordan announcing his re-entrance back into basketball and how we all have Bugs Bunny to thank for bringing back Air Jordan. (Suck it Beyonce! There IS more than one awesome way to make an announcement!)

I could even recognize that I am not the only one that thinks Space Jam is awesome as proven by the fact that it grossed a whopping $230 million dollars worldwide.

And, of course, I could show you this web site.

That’s right. That is the original 1996 website created for when the movie came out. Feels like a time machine, don’t it?

Yes yes, I could mention those things, but I think the largest most overwhelming reason I adore and digest movies like Space Jam is because that ridiculous popcorn flick is something from our  past that would never and could never exist today. It’s a sort of lovely melancholy I get when I think about the tagline “get ready to Jam.” A retro-fitted beauty that I bestow on something pretty trivial and literally cartoony. The fact that it’s its own time capsule and rather “alone in its principles” is further reason of adoration, if only because Space Jam is intangible, if only because Space Jam can’t be made again.

“What are you talking about? Sure it can!” I hear you plea in drunken bar conversations and nights around the pipe. “They should make another Space Jam! Or something like it! Totally!” And I totally agree, old friend. I wish it were true that something as pure and honest as this: ( ) could be created in 2013, with no hint of irony or sarcasm.

While Space Jam is comically self aware, it lacks what today’s entertainment is full of:

A vapid distaste for itself.

Now, bear in mind I am not rolling my eyes at the opinionated masses the entertainment platform has become. I am fully part of generation “my opinion matters” (case and point I am writing A BLOG ABOUT SPACE JAM). I am Pro interactive programming, with a capital P. I like watching Walking Dead, tweeting Ranger Rick jokes all the while signing up for a Walking Dead Zombie Fun Run at Universal Studios. And while I think it’s a shitty cloak of security the comment section of youtube supplies for anonymous assholes with nothing better to do than harass aspiring kid dancers, I think there is more good in what the comment section can do for a new comedian or singer than bad. It’s nice to know when things are popular based on views. It’s fun to feel retweeted, liked, favorited, tagged, tumbled, listed, memed, gif-ed, even if it’s the tiniest detail being admired or laughed at. Picking something apart is a new internet/movie/t.v. concept, and in the end I think it is now essential with the joy that comes from the whole entertainment experience. That said, in today’s buzzfeed, cracked, dailymotion, and hellogiggles world a movie like Space Jam would be blown to smithereens before Wylie Coyote could set up the dynamite.

The reason Space Jam could not exist today is because by its very nature the movie is polarizing in the minds of  how an audience thinks today.  Space Jam is awesomely bad, a product of commercialism, and cog made just to make money with no real substantial cinematic value or class. At the same time, it’s nothing but happiness and innocence, a colorful romp with a beloved American hero who is willing to have us laugh at his own expense, and a treat to those who love animation, basketball, or childhood. The music completes the package in both cases. It’s terrible, packaged, jock jammy and will get stuck in your head for days. On the flip side, it’s upbeat, dance-able, jock jammy (yes, that goes in both columns) and will get stuck in your head as nostalgia.

If Space Jam was released today, I could project two things happening. 1. The positive hype behind it would peak so high and so ironically that it would no doubt be a let down when it came to the final product, which is essentially an eighty eight minute cartoon with a very short basketball game. A ho-hum “that’s it?” mentality will ensue.  Maybe Bugs wasn’t as cool as we remembered him to be. Maybe we will pretend this Loony Toons movie never happened. (I forsee a similar fate with the new Disney show Girl Meets World, which, by the way, hasn’t even cast the pilot you guys! COREY AND TOPANGO WERE ONLY KINDA COOL BACK IN THE DAY.) Snarks and sneers would shortly follow, complete with R. Kelly jabs and an issue with the use of the word “slaves.” Yep. That could happen OR 2. Space Jam would try so hard and be so referential and aware that it would beat itself at its own game and eventually become the butt of the joke, panned, and belittled. We’d again pretend that the basketball Loony Toons movie didn’t count. Michael Jordan would made into a tumblr ala “Poor Michelle” or “Sad Keanu.” All because we thought too hard and too long and had such high hopes and big dreams that the very way Mike dribbled would be a source of controversy. (I see the reddit now. “How could he only dribble twice before launching into the dunk? Clearly he was traveling.” “I agree @redditfanjordan69. Michael totally SOLD OUT.” “Does anyone else think the girl bunny boobs were stupid?” “Totally stupid. And offensive.”)

It’s sad but true.

And yet luckily it’s not.

Space Jam was made in 1996, and shit like that didn’t happen in 1996. Sure maybe it happened in people’s minds, but not in the freelance world of the interwebs. Shit like that was locked down in journals and in brains so the rest of us could just kick back, relax and enjoy the movie. And thus, the fantastic near perfect movie Space Jam stays in mint condition, excellently preserved.

Cut to today, though we are a generation of hyperbole of hate/love, one subject is chronically universal, which is the love of our past. Kids my age ooze over relics from our childhood like Olmec oozed over the legends in his Hidden Temple. It’s the one thing we don’t poke at with an irony stick. If I see a t-shirt with the Jurassic Park logo on it, I sincerely think that is an awesome shirt, not some “it’s so lame it’s cool” awesome, just awesome “it’s from my past, it has dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum god-that-movie-is-tits” awesome. Space Jam is the same kind of movie. I openly love it today with no remorse or caution.

And that’s the rub. That’s why Space Jam is so great.

It’s almost like the stars needed to align perfectly for this conclusion to occur. The film needed to be made. It needed to include Michael Jordan and Marvin the Martian. It needed to come out in 1996. I needed to be born. I needed to grow up in the nineties. I needed to rediscover the movie in 2013. Then and only then could I determine what I set out in this blog to determine which is:

Space Jam is a near perfect movie.

I hope I didn’t overhype it for you.

–          One L

“Doubt my words? You can always watch it high.”  – my thoughts on any in depth analysis of any movie ever.


2 thoughts on “Space Jam

  1. Amazing post.

    Space Jam is awesome. The moment where Daffy takes a whack and then in a daze wraps his arm around one of the Monstars before saying “but mommy, I don’t want to go to school today. I want to stay home and bake cookies with you!…” never fails to make me laugh.

    Yeah, I may watched Space Jam the other day.

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