Space Jam is a 1996 American live-action/animated film starring Michael Jordan opposite Bugs Bunny (voiced by Billy West) and the rest of the Looney Tunes characters. It was produced by Ivan Reitman, and directed by Joe Pytka (live-action), Tony Cervone, and Bruce W. Smith (animation). The film was released theatrically by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment on November 15, 1996.
Other voices included Bob Bergen as Porky Pig, Tweety, Hubie and Bertie, and Marvin the Martian; Bill Farmer as Sylvester; and Dee Bradley Baker as Daffy and Taz. The Looney Tunes crew did not return to movie status afterwards until 2003 in Looney Tunes: Back in Action (the year that Michael Jordan retired for good). Space Jam was also converted in a pinball and a video game by Acclaim Entertainment for PC-DOS, Sega Saturn, and PlayStation. The film includes Looney Tunes such as: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety, Marvin the Martian, Foghorn Leghorn, Taz, Wile E. Coyote, Roadrunner, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Pepe LePew, Speedy Gonzales, Granny, and Lola Bunny.
Aliens called Nerdlucks
arrive on Earth to capture the Looney Tunes
characters and take them back to Moron Mountain, an outer space theme park belonging to their boss, Mr. Swackhammer
, voiced by Danny DeVito
, as the theme park is in need of a new attraction. Bugs Bunny
convinces the aliens that the Looney Tunes
must be allowed to defend themselves. Since the aliens are very short the Looney Tunes challenge them to a basketball
After viewing a reel on basketball and finding out about the NBA, the aliens steal the talent of 5 NBA stars (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, and Shawn Bradley) and use it to transform themselves into the tall and muscular Monstars. Fortunately, the Monstars haven't stolen the talent of Michael Jordan because he has retired from basketball to pursue a career in baseball (a real-life event). Bugs Bunny gets Jordan to help them in their basketball game. After a hardened battle and despite taking several casualties (Bugs Bunny himself gets injured in the process) and with the timely arrival of Bill Murray, The Looney Tunes manage to win the game and their freedom. Swackhammer berates the Monstars for losing, but then they realize that since they're no longer smaller than him, they don't have to put up with his bullying anymore. They launch Swackhammer into space, and give back the stolen skills through the basketball they got it from, becoming Nerdlucks again. The Nerdlucks ask Bugs Bunny a request to stay in Looney Tune land, to which Daffy and Bugs reluctantly agree. Michael Jordan then gives back the talent where the "bad players" touch the ball and become normal again. Michael Jordan then decides to return to basketball, mirroring his real-life return.
Many major and minor characters from Looney Tunes shorts make appearances in the movie, and are even joined by Lola Bunny, a female hare that acts as Bugs' love interest.
Notable cameos include Wayne Knight (as Michael's new manager, Stan), Bill Murray (as himself, but mistaken by Swackhammer in the movie for Dan Aykroyd - who himself starred in a basketball movie in 1996, Celtic Pride), Jim Rome, Larry Bird and Scottie Pippen.
had mixed critical response. Notable critic Roger Ebert
gave Space Jam
an enthusiastic "thumbs up," which Gene Siskel
also gave the film although his zeal was more subdued. Leonard Maltin
also gave the film a positive review. Some critics compared it unfavorably to Who Framed Roger Rabbit
, a popular film in which cartoon characters (including The Looney Tunes) and live-action humans coexisted in the same film as well. Those who liked the film praised the visual effects, which were groundbreaking at the time.
The film's soundtrack was popular and highly praised, and it served as a high point for musical artist R. Kelly
, whose song "I Believe I Can Fly
" became a hit after it was featured on the film's soundtrack. Other notable musical numbers appearing in the film include a cover of "Fly Like an Eagle
" (by Seal
), "Hit 'Em High (The Monstars' Anthem)
" (by B-Real
, Method Man
, LL Cool J
, and Busta Rhymes
), "Basketball Jones
" (by Chris Rock
& Barry White
), and "For You I Will
" (by Monica
). The movie's theme song was performed by the Quad City DJ's
Despite mixed reviews, Space Jam was a major box office success. In its opening weekend, it grossed $27,528,529 in the United States. At the end of its running, it grossed $90,418,342 in the United States and $230,418,342 worldwide. The film, for a period, was the highest grossing non-Disney animated film but has since been outgrossed by The Rugrats Movie
, The Prince of Egypt
and The Simpsons Movie
Cast of NBA players
Aside from Michael Jordan
, who plays the lead role, Space Jam
contains a liberal amount of NBA players and coaches appearances. Retired NBA great Larry Bird
plays golf with Jordan, and when the Monstars steal the NBA players' skills, they invade a game between the Phoenix Suns
and the New York Knicks
, causing the Knicks' Patrick Ewing
and the Suns' Charles Barkley
to make in-game mistakes. In these scenes, the Knicks' Charles Oakley
and Derek Harper
and the Suns' A.C. Green
, Danny Ainge
, and Paul Westphal
(coach) are also on-screen.
Later in the film, Ewing and Barkley are joined by the now "gameless" Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues (the smallest player in NBA history) and Shawn Bradley (at 7-6, one of the tallest). Also, when the Los Angeles Lakers are trying to avoid playing basketball in fear of getting infected, Lakers Vlade Divac, Cedric Ceballos, Anthony Miller, and coach Del Harris make a short cameo. Similar short appearances are also made by NBA players Jeff Malone, Alonzo Mourning, and Sharone Wright and TV commentators Jim Rome and Ahmad Rashad.
In addition, the NBA players make several insider jokes. When Barkley prays to God to give him back his skill, he swears to stop his trash talk and no longer have affairs with Madonna, sending up his image as a tough trash talker and in reference to his own real life affair with the singer. Also, Bradley contemplates becoming a missionary once again, again in reference to his own experiences as a Mormon missionary.
- Billy West - Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd
- Dee Bradley Baker - Daffy Duck, Tasmanian Devil, Bull
- Danny DeVito - Mr. Swackhammer
- Bob Bergen - Porky Pig, Marvin the Martian, Tweety Bird, Bertie, Hubie
- Bill Farmer - Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam
- June Foray - Granny, Witch Hazel
- Maurice LaMarche - Pepé Le Pew
- Kath Soucie - Lola Bunny
- Frank Welker - Charlie Dog
- Shane Magwire - Eric Gordon
- Jocelyn Blue - Nerdluck Pound
- Joey Camen - Monstar Bang
- T. K. Carter - Monstar Nawt
- Dorian Harewood - Monstar Bupkus
- Charity James - Nerdluck Blanko
- Steve Kehela - Monstar Blanko, Announcer
- Catherine Reitman - Nerdluck Bupkus
- M. Darnell Suttles - Monstar Pound
- Colleen Wainwright - Nerdluck Nawt, Sniffles
- Mel Blanc - Daffy Duck (Archive Footage from "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!", Uncredited)
Awards and nominations
- Daffy tells Bugs that they should name their basketball team with Jordan "the Ducks". Bugs replies with his potshot at WB rival Disney: "What kind of Mickey Mouse organization would call a team 'The Ducks'?" - a reference to Disney's The Mighty Ducks (who were also a real team known as "The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim"), as well as Wayne Gretzky's comments concerning the New Jersey Devils in the 1980s.
- One scene references Pulp Fiction, with Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam dressed as men in black as the song "Miserlou" by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones plays in the background.
- The movie was inspired by Nike commercial which premiered during Super Bowl XXVI featuring Michael and Bugs against Marvin and another alien, and won the 1992 USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter survey. Another shoe commercial is referenced when Larry Johnson says that his grandmother can play better than him (he played his grandmother in an ad for Converse).
- This was the first live-action/animated film ever to be based on various classic Warner Bros. animated cartoons. (Actually, the second film if you count first with Who Framed Roger Rabbit.)
- The character Stan makes this quote: "C'mon, Michael, it's game time. Get your Hanes on, lace up your Nikes, grab your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we'll pick up a Big Mac on the way to the Ball Park", humorizing Jordan's sports product brand endorsement.
- When Bill Murray arrives at the game near the end of the movie to help Jordan and the Looney Tunes, he is mistaken for Dan Aykroyd by Mr Swackhammer. Shortly after, Daffy asks Murray about how he arrived, to which Murray replies how he's a friend of the producer and was dropped off. Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd both starred in the popular Ghostbusters franchise of the 80s that Ivan Reitman directed.
- The plot of the movie is used as backstory to the freeware PC game Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden. The basketball in which Barkley and the other players were trapped is used as a plot device, Michael Jordan's past in Space Jam is mentioned several times, as are the Looney Tunes. The Monstars appear in the closing sequence, apparently evil once again.
- Acclaim also made a video game based on the film
- The nerdlucks/monstars' names are never mentioned throughout the movie but they are listed in the credits, several action figures and trading cards helped people tell which had which name.