Lay out the bare ingredients for Space Jam and it shouldn’t work. The Looney Tunes can be fairly hit and miss, basketball stars should not make great actors and the film itself is stepping into territory best reserved for Disney or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Somehow, Warner Bros pull off something that works, just about.
The key is that the Looney Tunes aspects of the film are funny. Strip the classic cartoons back to their basic elements and the slapstick, word-play and updated but familiar jokes for each famous cartoon character still work. Bugs Bunny is as witty as ever, Daffy Duck is still an imbecile and Tweety-Pie is still cute. There are moments in Space Jam that will make you laugh aloud.
The next impressive surprise is that Michael Jordan is actually fairly decent. He won’t be winning any Oscars but he certainly doesn’t embarrass himself and when playing alongside iconic cartoon characters, he holds his own. The story even manages to send-up his short-lived and notorious baseball career, so he is also clearly a man who isn’t scared to laugh at himself. Jordan also brings with him some other basketball stars of the time, each making cameos and to their credit, getting at least one decent and humorous moment between them.
The story itself has just enough to hang the jokes upon. The idea of a basketball game to save Earth, which results in small aliens taking the powers and skills of Earths greatest basketball stars, is one with potential and Space Jam uses it well for a lot of that potential. The basketball game at the end of the movie works, having some very clever moments and managing to sneak a moral message in there for the kids.
It is very shallow though and there are no surprises here. You are watching, knowing what is going to happen and by the end of the movie, just waiting for the predictable events to play out. It also means that the basketball stars start to get more screen-time and not all of them act as well as Jordan manages to.
Overall, Space Jam is a fairly decent live-action, animated hybrid. It has solid jokes, particularly when focusing just on the Looney Tunes, as well as a decent story to hang the events on. Jordan surprises with his ability but not enough to save a shallow movie from becoming predictable as it plays out.
Rating – 3
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