Thoughts from a ’90s kid: ‘Space Jam’ isn’t great

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I label myself a typical ‘90s kid. I grew up on Sesame Street, NSync, and Mia Hamm. I wore overalls, liked Trix cereal, — it’s just for kids — and collected NOW “That’s What I Call Music” CDs. But, there’s one thing that’s missing from my resume: I never watched Space Jam.

I never saw a problem with this small fact until I became older. It’s come up in discussions I’ve had with people about their favorite movies, or about why Michael Jordan is the GOAT, or even as a topic on first dates. I’ve since felt like I lost some credibility. And these conversations really made me wonder what makes Space Jam so great….

So, I rented the movie on Amazon and dedicated an evening to “culturing” myself.

The movie opens in summer 1973, — Michael Jordan is 10 years old — “I Believe I Can Fly,” an R. Kelly classic, serenades viewers. (Most likely an ode to Jordan’s capability of flying to the hoop.) Viewers are aware of Jordan’s dedication to the sport from his young age. Mr. Jordan comes outside to check on his son, who’s up past his bedtime shooting hoops. I, honestly, didn’t know that Space Jam was a biopic-of-sorts. Not until the opening credits flashed MJ dunks across the screen.

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I think it’s important to address that I didn’t know about MJ until I was at least nine — maybe even older. By fourth grade, I started caring about sports and learning about the greats. Before that I was a little preoccupied with Barbie dolls and boybands. Consequently, Space Jam wasn’t on the list of movies I needed to see. This does not mean that I didn’t think Jordan was talented. I just wasn’t aware of it. Call me sheltered or deprived. I’ve heard it all.

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I can’t say I wasn’t harshly judging this movie. It’s not my fault that, for the past 24 years, the world has over-hyped Space Jam. It only makes sense that I laughed when MJ retires from basketball and picks up baseball.  (Yes, I know he was good at both sports. I still think it’s absurd he quit basketball to play baseball.) He’s an awful ballplayer, but people are willing to overlook this fact because he’s Michael Jordan.

And where do the Looney Tunes come in?

A group of aliens from Moron Mountain are sent to find the Looney Tunes because the amusement park on their planet is failing. The head alien (no, I don’t remember his name) believes that capturing the Looney Tunes will reverse their hard times. Fast forward a bit through some of the more boring parts in the movie — besides the Newman cameo… And the Jim Rome moment when he’s criticizing MJ’s baseball abilities…. (I love to hate that guy.)

The Looney Tunes decide to fight against their imminent capture by the aliens. Bugs Bunny suggests a basketball game with high stakes — if the ‘toons lose, they’re slaves on Moron Mountain. (Bugs is confident about his choice, though, because the aliens are puny.) The aliens agree but steal star power from noteworthy NBA athletes of the era — Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues. The aliens become the Monstars.

Apparently, Bugs Bunny failed to realize that none of the Looney Tunes could actually play basketball. Why not choose any easier sport to play? Dodgeball, perhaps? But then, there’d be no need for MJ. Bugs pulls Michael Jordan into the cartoon universe to bolster the Tune Squad’s roster. Uhhhh…did I mention MJ is sucked into the cartoon world via hole on the golf course? And Jordan’s companions on the course are BILL MURRAY and LARRY BIRD?! There’s virtually no reaction by them when he just vanishes. What kind of friends are they?!

Michael Jordan reluctantly decides to help the Looney Tunes. (It really surprised me that there was no training montage. I thought that Jordan would try to coach the Looney Tunes before the game. They clearly had no talent.

Meanwhile, the NBA players search for the cure to their lost talent; Jordan’s kids spot Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny; the aliens seriously bulk up; Lola Bunny appears to be the only skilled basketball player; and the Monstars easily take the lead against a depleted Tune Squad.

My thoughts in this span of events:

  1.     I’m pretty sure the whole point of this movie is to assert that MJ was born to play basketball.
  2.     I still think Tweety Bird is a girl…
  3.     Wait, who’s the audience for this basketball game?
  4.     “Michael’s Secret Stuff” is definitely an allusion to steroid usage — even if it’s revealed as water
  5.     Michael Jordan’s halftime speech sucked.

The Monstars raise the stakes for the second half: if the Tune Squad loses, Moron Mountain wins MJ and the NBA players will get their talent back. Somehow, the Toon Squad wins. (Plenty of antics, last second Air Jordan moment, and, of course, the “special stuff was inside them all along.”)  The heroes win and the normal order returns…or does it? Michael Jordan returns to his life as a baseball player (WTF?), and the NBA athletes regain their talent (wait, there’s still no explanation for this?). The movie ends in 1995 as Michael Jordan rightfully returns to basketball.

Space Jam was underwhelming. It felt rushed, the finale abrupt. The plot was terrible and filled with holes. The acting was subpar. It seems like the minds behind this movie threw together a smorgasbord of popular culture icons to make a movie that’s essentially about Michael Jordan’s life. I expected more. But this movie wasn’t made for me, an over-analytical adult.

I don’t connect with this movie in ways that my peers do. I didn’t see it in its true form — with the innocent mind of a 5 year old. This movie fosters dreams and encourages following those dreams. I can understand why ‘90s kids love this movie. So while some say I missed out on something great, I still believe I wasn’t incomplete without it.

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