I’m not doing this to be OMG random lol!!!!!1 #YOLO #KONY2012. I heard R.Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” on the radio the other day and it struck me just how odd it was that the song was done for the unbelievably shallow Space Jam. I can totally buy “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” for The Lion King, but The Lion King was actually about something. It had emotions in it. Plus, Disney kind of unofficially own that “video of orchestrally backed song with film projected in the background” thing. Anyway, it got me thinking about the film and here we are:
Space Jam (1996)
You’d be hard-pressed to find something as lazy and mercenary as Space Jam. I don’t think I saw this in the cinema at the time, but I sure as hell remember the marketing. I was excited for Space Jam, even though I didn’t know the rules of basketball and I had no idea who Michael Jordan was. Space Jam is based on the then highly successful Nike adverts featuring Jordan and Bugs Bunny.See a classic example here. Adverts turned into feature films have never been a good idea, with the Jim Varney Ernest films and the Johnny English films both based on 30 second annoyances and attesting to that fact. I remember liking it as a kid, but the real test is revisiting these things later and seeing if they hold up. It really doesn’t. It’s terrible, but you already knew that.
The plot is that some aliens want to take the Looney Tunes back to their failing space theme park and have them as permanent attractions. Bugs Bunny (Billy West) et al. instead challenge the vertically-challenged invaders to a basketball game. The aliens then steal the talent from NBA players and become big and scary, calling themselves “The Monstars”. The Tunes rope in Michael Jordan to help their chances and avoid becoming space prisoners. Fuck me, I know some kids’ films don’t try, but Jesus. I really hate it when kiddie films put in no effort whatsoever like this. The film is a giant advert for adverts and as such has no time for anything like plotting, decent characters or jokes. The Looney Tunes cartoons are genuinely funny. Who doesn’t love a bit of Bugs Bunny or a smattering of Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner? Here they’re not their usual funny anarchic selves. They’re corporate shills doing and saying safe, unfunny things to sell trainers, fast food and tie-in toys. It’s fucking tragic. Talking of “fucking tragic”, Michael Jordan. The guy may have been good at dunking, but he ain’t good at acting. Same goes for the obviously-famous-to-Americans other players who have all the thespian talent and charm of a turd in an envelope. The only bright spot is Bill Murray turning up, but he’s only here in a “oh shit, it’s Bill Murray!” type capacity.
The film wants to be like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but gets nowhere near. Roger Rabbit is a clever film noir pastiche and the animation is beautiful. This is just some slapped together toss. Here’s the thing, as a rule of thumb kids don’t need much to be entertained. I think the test of a good kids’ film is whether you can watch it as a jaded adult and still enjoy it. Some Disney films still hold up. A lot of the Pixars have and will continue to stand the test of time. Do you know why? Because they are about the story. Roger Rabbit was about the story, not famous cartoon characters farting about. That was just a tertiary element.
Space Jam is boring. It has a vague idea what kids like and crowbars in all the popular Looney Tunes to say their catchphrases before focusing on Michael Jordan again. I remembered it being a lot more enjoyable than this. I feel sorry for the parents who were bullied by their kids to go and see this. Weirdly, the film has small nods to its adult audience with references to Patton and Pulp Fiction (the latter complete with a blast of “Miserlou”). It’s really strange. Strangest of all though is the introduction of new “Tune” Lola Bunny. A literal Jessica Rabbit character, she slinks around making all the toons lust after her. Oh, and she has a thing about being called “doll”, so clearly she’s a classic female character for the ages ( I think I remember Pamela Anderson’s character in the equally shit Barb Wire having a similar character trait). The level of sexualisation here is off the charts. A quick dark but educational trip to DeviantArt proved that she gained some sweaty perverted fans after her appearance in this film. Jerking off over cartoon rabbits, that’s how far humanity has sunk, people.
The film made me realise a few important things:
1) A kids’ film that holds up to the harsh criticism of a jaded adult is truly a treasure and should be celebrated as such.
2) Basketball is all presentation and no substance. It’s a boring game in an incredibly glitzy wrapper.
3) Kids will pretty much enjoy anything.
4) Not even Bill Fucking Murray can save a film this bad.
So I guess I asked for it, but Space Jam is a stinker of epic proportions. I’ve seen a few people holding it up as a childhood classic, but I challenge those same people to sit down and watch it now. It really isn’t good. It’s not even passable. The only interesting thing about it is that, amazingly, the original promotional website is still up and functioning. If you want to see what passed for the Internet back in the mid to late ’90s, check it out here. Hahaha! What backwards feckless cavemen we were back then! Anyway, reviews of real films coming soon. Watch this space.