The mid-90s gave the subsequent years a plethora of things that are still reeking with freshness, like the Super Nintendo or R. L. Stein. As some things rise, others fall, and although entertaining countless viewers for decades, the animated antics of the Looney Tunes were waning. Action was needed to help revitalise the brand. In 1996, one film combined the likes of Bugs Bunny and the continuing coolness of the Basketball court into a winning power play. One that evokes a cultural reverence for anybody around a certain age. A film that is known as Space Jam.
Michael Jordan has retired from Basketball to give other pursuits like Baseball a shot. While he is popular, he cannot get his magic to work in these new fields. Meanwhile, extra-terrestrial amusement park workers, looking to boost attendance, have challenged the animated Looney Tunes cast to a Basketball game. If the cartoon critters lose, they must spend the rest of their days in perpetual servitude on an intergalactic theme park. These beings have an ace up their sleeves, stealing the basketball essence from the biggest players. The toons, in turn, enlist the ex-basketballer, Jordan, to get them into fighting shape. In a basketball match that will break all rules of logic; truly earning the name Loony.
While that plot description might sound a little contrived, it is just building off the successful advertising campaign from a few years prior. Other films involving the Warner Brothers characters may have had grander adventures, but this blockbuster introduction mainly focuses on the United States. We do, however, get to see the new theme park, Moron Mountain; a location that reminds me a lot of the set pieces from Cool World. Cartoon aficionados may recognise Space Jam as the introduction of one Lola Bunny. Her character is certainly emblematic of the era, in the same year that beget household-recognised heroines like Laura Croft. She makes a fine inclusion to the list and the Loony Tunes roster. The epoch-defining soundtrack also needs no introduction and speaks for itself.
Danny DeVito’s vocal performance is fine and fitting, portraying an unscrupulous intergalactic theme park manager, certainly tracks for him. Michael Jordan works well with the cartoon setting, marrying the combination of bewilderment at the situation, and a determination for victory that makes him a fine protagonist. He is not alone, some of the biggest comedic talents match wits with the biggest animated stars. Meaning you have got the likes of Wayne Knight and Bill Murray providing the brunt of gags from their ancillary roles. Even cameos from Patricia Heaton and Dan Castellaneta round up the comedy who’s who of the era. Though Space Jam is not just a comedian’s game. It is hilarious to see the ‘zombified’ players on the pitch, playing the game almost as bad as I, provides a source of great comedic potential. Along with the subsequent tangents that practically every player goes through to get their mojo back, demonstrates a certain commitment on the acting field, as they do in the court.
Serving as a perfect capsule of the era, Space Jam is an entertaining dream team of comedy superstars and your favourite cartoon characters, engaged in a family first intergalactic game of basketball. There is a hipness that makes it seem evergreen; evoking the never die sense of nostalgia that is so fondly recalled. It certainly shows the classic Loony Tune antics were more than ready for the new millennium. If you are looking for a good time, Space Jam is a slam dunk.
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