cult classic: space jam

By Joshua Price

The world was a very different place in 1996. It was a time when Nicolas Cage was able to win an Oscar, a time when ‘Game of Thrones’ existed only as a single fantasy novel and a time when you could make a movie starring the Looney Tunes, Michael Jordan and Bill Murray. We’ve come a long way in 20 years.

Given the recent confirmation of a ‘Space Jam 2’ that will be starting production under the direction of Justin Lin and starring LeBron James alongside the Looney Tunes, it seems like an ideal opportunity to revisit the baffling entity known as Space Jam.

I have to question what the title of the movie even means. I can’t reach any sound conclusion as to what ‘Space Jam’ is referring to; it’s a decent name for a soundtrack but a confusing one for a film. Speaking of soundtracks though, if you want an album that epitomises everything that is the 1990s then behold ‘Space Jam’ which features hits from Spin Doctors, Salt N Pepa and R Kelly’s ‘I Believe I can Fly’.

Despite the fact that he is credited after Bugs Bunny (for obvious reasons) Michael Jordan is the centre of the film. The only issue is that Michael Jordan cannot act in any way shape or form. His reactions to being transported into a cartoon world are bafflingly understated to the point of mild befuddlement. I can only theorise that such an occurrence must happen regularly to Michael Jordan. In fact, the most genuine piece of acting we see from Jordan is a gag reel secretly edited into one of the film’s sequences. Jordan seems equally nonchalant at the small revelation that aliens exist as do cartoons (which yields frightening existential possibilities). But if we do undergo any encounter with extraterrestrials, it’s comforting to know that we would threaten their existence with a challenging game of basketball.

In between the product placement and Pup Fiction references (yes, you read that correctly) lies a sub-plot involving Jordan’s basketball career, his relationship with his father and his free time on the golf course. It’s at this point you begin to wonder if this is some kind of nightmarish acid trip. The film even turns meta with Bill Murray’s sudden appearance explained as “He’s a friend of the producer”. That flew over my head when I watched this film as a kid, but so did many other things, including the basic question of why this film even exists.

If nothing else, it is the best live action/animated sports comedy film that stars Michael Jordan. Like its still existing website (that everyone should google when they get the chance) it’s a time capsule, a baffling oddity and beyond logical reasoning.

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