ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary glossed over Michael Jordan’s greatest accomplishment — leading the TuneSquad to a come-from-behind victory over the Monstars.
The NBA legend teamed with the Looney Tunes to create the highest grossing basketball movie of all time — 1996’s “Space Jam.”
This highly entertaining and quotable film still resonates and is set for a sequel, starring LeBron James in 2021.
Here’s a plot summary: Because of Moron Mountain amusement park’s failing entertainment, its owner Mr. Swackhammer sends aliens to kidnap the Looney Tunes to improve ticket sales. Bugs Bunny challenges them to a basketball game to decide the Looney Tunes’ fate. Bugs and the gang are forced to recruit Jordan because the aliens stole NBA players’ (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley) talent.
The ridiculous plot works as I loved this film since I was 6 years old.
The movie is very aware of itself, which helps it stand the test of time.
Jordan won five Most Valuable Player awards in a sport where he is considered the greatest of all time.
However, Bill Murray steals this honor as himself despite significantly less screen time.
Everything he says is hilarious.
My favorite Murray line comes after Jordan is lassoed down a golf hole. He says to another NBA legend Larry Bird, “Larry, I’m going to give us both twos back there. We weren’t in any emotional state to putt.”
Murray also plays alongside Jordan in the TuneSquad’s high-stakes matchup against the Monstars.
The film goes meta as Daffy Duck questions how Murray got into Looney Tune Land. He said he’s a friend of the producer Ivan Reitman, which he actually is in real life.
He also draws up a game-winning play for the TuneSquad, but doesn’t realize the team is on defense.
Finally, when Jordan returns to the NBA, Murray sits dejectedly next to Bird in the stands as he sadly tells him, “Larry, that could have been me.” He thought with the decline in NBA talent because of the alien invasion he’d have a shot to play in the league.
Bird tells him to get over it and Murray screams, “Let’s go Bulls!” as his voice cracks.
Rookie of the Year
While he didn’t take another MVP, Jordan will add his second Rookie of the Year to his trophy case.
Jordan is not a good actor, but he steps into his first feature film and takes on a leading role that asks a lot of him.
At least half the movie, Jordan interacts with Looney Tunes, which means he’s acting against a green screen. He makes it believable.
It also surprised me Jordan pushed his ego to the side and allowed the movie to constantly make fun of how bad he was at baseball.
He completely buys into the concept and gives this film his all. Without that enthusiasm in the leading role, the movie doesn’t work.
I’ve enjoyed the Looney Tunes for years and each character has a great moment. However, Bugs Bunny (voiced by Billy West) is still the best.
His big moment comes at halftime when he hilariously urges the TuneSquad to take a performance-enhancing drug. Well, it’s just water with “Michael’s Secret Stuff” written on the bottle.
My favorite line of his comes when he’s trying to convince Jordan to help the Looney Tunes beat the Monstars. When Jordan says he’s a baseball player now, Bugs says, “Right, and I’m a Shakespearian actor.”
Years after the character’s inception, Bugs Bunny is still able to go toe-to-toe with one of the most influential figures in the world.
The soundtrack remains an awesome part of this movie and adds to many scenes.
Seal’s cover of “Fly Like an Eagle” will always be my favorite version of the song because of “Space Jam.”
Quad City DJ’s “Space Jam” sets the tone as it’s paired with the opening montage of Jordan highlights.
“I Believe I Can Fly” still proves inspirational. Unfortunately, a terrible human being sang it.
The soundtrack also includes “Hit ’Em High,” “Basketball Jones” and “For You I Will.”
The sexualization of Lola Bunny was a weird choice at the time and it looks even worse today.
It’s a shame because the film sort of makes her a strong female character. I understand what the film went for as every character underestimated her because of her looks. She proves the second best player on the team behind Jordan.
However, it doesn’t work because of the character design and her portrayal.
Also, Jordan is living the life of a middle-class American in the film.
One shining moment
Midway through the film, Barkley, Ewing, Bogues, Johnson and Bradley try to work through the loss of their talent.
The scene is a montage of events with Barry White and Chris Rock’s “Basketball Jones” playing over it.
Barkley plays pick-up basketball with some girls before they kick him out for his lack of skill.
“This girl … five feet nothin’ … blocked my shot,” he tells the therapist.
Therapist: “When did you first start having this dream?”
Barkley: “It wasn’t a dream. It really happened.”
Barkley also hilariously asks God for his talent back and in exchange he’ll “never swear again. I’ll never get another technical. I’ll never trash talk.”
He even adds, “I’ll never go out with Madonna again.”
There’s some great physical and visual comedy, too. Ewing, Bradley and Johnson simultaneously walk into the top of a door frame and slowly fall backward at a hospital.
The film also shows Bradley lying on the therapy couch with his legs dangling off the edge because he’s so tall. Then it dissolve cuts to the tiny Bogues for whom the couch looks too big.