Let’s get one thing out of the way: Space Jam is not a good movie in any stretch of the word.
The plot is bad, the VFX is all over the place and Michael Jordon’s acting is almost as bad as his baseball career. For almost everyone except for certain millennials, this movie is incomprehensible and just an overlong commercial for Air Jordans and Bugs Bunny merchandise.
Having said that Space Jam is fantastic in every single way and I will not hear any complaints about the 1996 masterpiece. In advance of Lebron James’ Space Jam: A New Legacy coming out on July 16th, (a gentle reminder that me and every other 90’s kid are a million years old and should just turn to dust already) I wanted to breakdown why the 1996 Space Jam is so beloved by a certain group of people.
4. That Soundtrack!
Picture this, you are in a packed stadium seeing a basketball game or a hockey match or a deadly rollerball tournament where people’s actual lives are at stake but you are having too much fun to care about that. There’s a break in the action and the crowd goes quiet. The next thing you hear is “Everybody get up, its time to slam now, we gotta a real jam going down, welcome to the space jam”. The crowd goes nuts even before the beat drops in the song and everyone is hyped right back up again, ready for the next quarter, period or next round of victims for the deadly rollerball spike pit (I really need to see either one of those Rollerball movies…).
That titular song for the soundtrack (“Space Jam” by Quad City DJ’s) combined with the footage of Michael Jordan’s basketball career from high school to college to the start of his iconic NBA could be one of the montages committed to screen. Even if you are bored to tears by the rest of the movie after that, I can’t imagine anyone not tapping their toes and getting hyped up from that vibrant and energizing song.
The rest of the mostly does not disappoint either. The actual first track on the soundtrack is “Fly Like an Eagle” by Seal, hot off the “Kiss from a Rose” single from the Batman Forever soundtrack (another kick-ass collection of songs to a movie only people of a certain age really love). While this is a cover of a Steve Miller song from the 70’s, Seal makes it his own so much that Steve Miller called him up to tell him “[it] was the best cover of the song that he had heard”.
While there is one individual that appears twice on the soundtrack that I think we can skip saying his name (you know who it is), the rest of the songs are a combination of reworked covers and original bangers from artists like Coolio, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Method Man, Monica, Jay-Z, Salt-N-Pepa, Barry White, the Spin Doctors and Biz Markie. This is another 90’s soundtrack that, for the most part, stands the test of time and remains as good as it was in 1996.
3. Bill Fucking Murray
Not only is having Bill Murray in Space Jam amazing because he’s Bill Fucking Murray, His presence represents a turning point in the movie, good or bad depending on the way you look at it. Towards the end of the movie, Michael Jordan is told his team may have to forfeit because they don’t have enough able-bodied “people” to play on the court. Right after he is informed of that, Bill Murray suddenly appears on the court, announcing himself with a vocal drumroll.
What I can see about this being lazy to some people, it sort of signals when the screenwriter officially ran out of ideas to get it to a minimum feature length movie (the runtime is only 88 minutes). Bill Murray showing up and improv-ing a few lines to distract audiences from the fact that the movie has come to a screeching halt, can be seen as lazy to some. Watching it again with 30 something year old eyes, I see it as a playful, meta way to introduce a little fun to the movie. Murray even gives an honest answer why and how he is in the movie and basketball game (“a producer’s a friend of mine, just had a teamster drop me off”). Even as a kid, it was a little confusing having the guy from What about Bob suddenly show up, but, as with every role Bill Murray is in, he makes it work.
2. The Looney Tunes
Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and so many of the cast of Looney Tunes have been around since 1930! To a lot of people, these characters were not only their introduction to animation but to amazing comedy. Countless writers and comedians say that they were first inspired to get into comedy because of the antics of these classic cartoons.
No matter how old you get, I guarantee you that you will get at least a smile out of watching Bugs tricking Daffy that its duck season or the Road Runner tricking the Coyote to run into a wall or for Pepe Le Pew doing something… (actually let’s skip him). This movie may not have been the best representation of their comedy but it did keep their presence alive for a few more years in a lot of people’s minds.
1. Michael Jordan
Even though I was a little young in 1996, I knew that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever, and maybe even arguably best athlete ever. Back then and now, I have zero interest in watching basketball, but I admired Michael Jordan more than any other celebrity, probably with a little help from this movie. If anyone is skeptical about how good he is, just watch the opening montage from that I mentioned earlier and I am willing to bet you your jaw will drop watching him perform all those amazing moves and dunks over the course of his early career (after watching The Last Dance, Jordan would, undoubtedly, take that bet).
Obviously, his acting in this movie aren’t exactly comparable with his basketball skills. However, considering that he had to act on a green screen next to about 10 grown men in tight, bright green leotards, I think we can all give him a little break.
Finally, I know a lot of grown men on the internet are complaining that this new Lebron James’ Space Jam is going to be far worse than the original version or that Lola Bunny isn’t well endowed enough (yup, that’s an actual complaint), but some people have to realize they are really fucking dumb. While I love the original, some people have to learn to let the next generation of kids have this property for a while.
The same mindset was around back when the original came out, complaints that the voices for the characters were all wrong, or that the movie was a cynical cash grab. While that may bother some people, kids in the 90’s didn’t care and they still loved the movie. The same thing will happen this weekend. Lots of people will be tweeting and complaining that this new Space Jam movie is ruining their childhood, meanwhile an 8 year old kid is going to have their first exposure to either basketball, the Looney Tunes or the Droogs from Clockwork Orange?
Watch the new movie, love it or hate it, and then move on. We’ll always have the magic that the first movie in our hearts and nothing can take that away from us.
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