SPACE JAM (Joe Pytka, 1996)

I’ve learned two things after telling a couple of fellow film buffs that I hated Space Jam. I guess its not right to rip the shreds out of a family film when you are an adult. I also learned that if you love a film when you are younger, you must like it for nostalgia sake because you did like it back then. Two things that absolutely make no sense to me. Are all things supposed to last? Even if the film entertained me as a kid, must I still enjoy it now when I actually think more maturely? Like I mentioned on IMDb’s message boards, I’d gladly recommend it to a young kid looking for some dumb fun, because I know from experience watching the movie over and over as a kid myself. But to adults? I’d recommend classic Looney Tunes cartoons instead, and steer them far away from Space Jam. For more mature thinkers its so vacant of any wit or charm to keep an adult attentive. Someone who never watched Space Jam when they were young (and don’t have any nostalgic memories over it) would more than likely dislike it.

Why do I find Space Jam so darn horrible? It’s a number of things. And the first violation above everything is that it offends me as one who cherishes the Looney Tunes. Even today, watching their little short films I never fail to laugh at their zany goofiness, and their clever ways of mixing social, emotional, and artistic nature into their humor. They had substance under their humor, and on top of that, they were actually funny. In Space Jam, they aren’t funny at all. They’re loud, obnoxious, mean-spirited and lack any sense of substance. They are basically created for the movie just to simply jabber away and practically never deserve a worthy laugh. They are degraded to unfunny pop culture references, all which are hugely random and have no reason to even be brought up other than to, well, be brought up. When Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam show up in Pulp Fiction gear, I was waiting for Tweety Bird or someone say: “It’s Pulp Fiction!” like its from a Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer concoction. There is no humor, wit or relevance in the references; they’re there just to be there. It doesn’t help that kids won’t even get the reference, while the adults (who it is more than likely aimed at) will find absolutely nothing funny about it seeing that there, well, is no punchline to laugh at.

What else hurts this film is that throughout its running time, absolutely nothing is learned. Where else to turn to when you aren’t witnessing any nice humor in the style of the classic Warner Bros. shorts? Some family films get a nice dose of cuteness from their morals, messages, lessons etc. But there are none here. The story rambles, scene by scene hardly anything happens, there is no character change and when there is, it’s at the spot. For example, the big mean aliens turn back to small, and then are all goody goody because they were under the control of mean boss Danny DeVito? But really, they want to be Looney Tunes, which should mean they have sympathy for the group of cartoons which means the entire premise of the big basketball game falls flat since they are playing the game to imprison the ones that they admire?

And then the plotting is vacant, basically beginning with (slight) satire of Michael Jordan’s failed baseball career (which isn’t satire as the film goes along to prove that its really a vanity role for him to brag about his return to the Chicago Bulls) until he is sucked down a golf hole, is given a monologue by Bugs Bunny about the weird and flawed alien story points and easily says: “Okay.” I guess it’s everyday you are sucked down a golf hole into Looney Tune land to play against aliens in a basketball game. I also find it hard to believe how quickly the basketball game begins (at the 50-minute mark of the 90-minute film) and how long, boring, pop-culture reference filled and loud it is. There is no suspense in this climax, neither is their any sense of doom. From the get-go, the Tunes are destined to win, and this game taking up half the movie just feels pointless and longer than it needs to be. Maybe it wouldn’t feel so boring had the comedic lines been well timed, delivered, and written? Everything that happens is just random, bogus, and lacking whimsy. And in this overlong climax there is also an out-of-the-blue cameo by Bill Murray (who appeared briefly earlier in the film) who somehow shows up in Looney Tune land for the sake of… well… yeah…. showing up. Let’s also not forget the Dan Aykroyd joke that I am sure the kids will not understand just as much as I’m sure adults will find it lame.

And let’s not forget the product placements. Oh boy, are they ever so big here. They’re about as subtle as the Coca-Cola can Bill Cosby holds up to his face in Leonard Part 6. Everything from the basketball always being positioned to where you can read Spalding on it, to Michael Jordan’s sneakers, to even the film’s dialogue!!! One line, if I remember correctly, has about 8 product placements in a single sentence, and its at a time when advertisements shouldn’t be rubbed in the face. It’s random, it’s painfully obvious, and its not even used as a joke of any sort. It’s one of the many chances to shoot in some wit and poke fun at product placements in film, but it chooses not to do so. Just as it avoids other opportunities to produce something that sparks with comedic delight.

It’s no surprise Michael Jordan and various other basketball players play by caricature and/or just pure blandness. (I don’t even want to think of a montage involving the supporting players, including a fairly ridiculous and stereotypical scene at a basketball court with Charles Barkley.) It is, though, a surprise how awful everybody else is, all the way down to a small character like a reporter. You know something is wrong when even Bill Murray fails to even slightly amuse you.

In the end, when the film reaches its “resolution” (with a space ship landing in a baseball field!!!) you just have to cringe in your seat. Of course, the little ones will look over all these flaws (and by all those flaws, I basically mean the entire film) and just enjoy it for the fact that their favorite cartoon characters are playing basketball. Adults? Like I said… it just doesn’t click. It’s mean-spirited, pointless, annoying, unfunny, and incredibly one-note.

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~ by jerkwoddjh on August 22, 2009.

2 Responses to “SPACE JAM (Joe Pytka, 1996)”

  1. why do you have to ruin my childhood

  2. I don’t mean to. It’s my opinion, so if you enjoy the film, that’s fine. But I didn’t…

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