Have you ever watched a movie from your childhood and suffered through the disappointing fact that it’s actually a dogshit film? Of course you have, you’re a human being! Your adolescent mind was just too underdeveloped to realize it at the time. I think it’s high time we put the debate to rest on all of our childhood movie favorites.
If this plays well, I’ll make it a series. Or maybe this will just be a one-hit wonder. Who’s to say?
The Movie: “Space Jam”
The Actors: Michael Jordan, The Looney Tunes, Bill Murray, Newman
The Premise: Aliens from a shitty theme park in space come down to kidnap the Looney Tunes because they’re too lazy to put some elbow grease into it themselves. The Tunes challenge them to basketball, not realizing that the aliens can obviously steal the basketball talent from four professional basketball players and Shawn Bradley. The Tunes enlist Michael Jordan, the baseball player, to help them beat the four scary Monstars and Frankenstein Shawn Bradley.
I won’t bother you folks with any more plot details, because if there’s one movie that has ubiquitously been seen by our generation, it’s “Space Jam.” Is it because it’s a phenomenally well-scripted, impeccably acted work of cinema with the best comedic timing since Mel Brooks’ glory days? Fuck no. If we’re being honest, “Space Jam” is in many ways a 90 minute commercial designed to sell Michael Jordan, Warner Brothers merchandise, and the concept of consumerism to young kids. Does that mean it’s a bad movie? A lot of buzzkillingtons would like you to think so. Their popular opinion is that “Space Jam” is a cynical, concession candy bullshit-fest tailor-made to brainwash kids into crying until their parents buy them a Happy Meal.
Well, to that, I say horseshit.
Sure, “Space Jam” is a mostly surface level celebration of goofiness with a decent amount of marketing hidden inside, but that is what makes it great. It’s not trying to be anything else. “Space Jam” taught us as kids not to be brainless consumers, but to have the capacity to let loose and enjoy less serious things for what they are. “Space Jam” is the reason I also love over the top action movies, John Grisham books, and Creed. I’ve learned that I don’t have to live on a steady diet of Thomas Pynchon books and Terrence Malick films in order to have a legitimate opinion about the human condition.
Furthering the idea of not taking oneself so seriously all the time, we got to see Michael Jordan actually take the piss out of himself a bit. With how much of a narcissistic asshole we’ve come to realize Jordan is, it’s kind of surprising he would make a movie that’s so honest about how big a failure his stint in baseball was. In a way, we were learning that it was okay to go off and try new things, and it was okay to be bad at those things.
And guess who else agrees with me? Roger fucking Ebert. My main man Roger gave “Space Jam” three and a half stars out of four. He found that the humor works on both kid and adult levels (it does), the acting by the supporting cast was hilarious (it is), and that the animation was well-done and interesting (still holds up).
So to sum things up, I want to give this movie two ratings. A nostalgia rating, in terms of how much watching this movie now puts you back into the age you were when you first loved it, and an objective rating, which takes off the childhood, rose-colored glasses and focuses on it just as it is.
Nostalgia Rating: This is a movie I watched once a week for a decent chunk of my life. The first CD I ever bought with my own money was the “Space Jam” soundtrack, and the number one thing currently on my Amazon wishlist is a TuneSquad jersey.
Objective Rating: The plot moves quite well, the jokes are funny, and Michael Jordan surprisingly isn’t the worst actor in the world, especially given that he’s playing off of animated characters he can’t even see. The soundtrack is better than most kids’ movies, plus the smart additions of Bill Murray and Wayne Knight to come in and ham it up make this a solid family movie overall.