“Love that movie. Wish I could do Space Jam 2.” - LeBron James.
That would be like when Shia LeBeouf re-made Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.....or when Lindsay Lohan starred in Liz & Dick....I’d rather watch PBS - you don’t touch a fucking classic.
Many people only remember Michael Jordan for 6 rings, 10 scoring titles, 6 time MVP awards, sneakers, and overall athletic legacy. I mean shit, the man’s career achievements have their own page in Wikipedia, labeled “List of Career Achievements by Michael Jordan,” in addition to his bio page - because no bio page can hold all that is MJ. BUT the achievement the page failed to mention -- and no it was not under “Other Interesting Notes” -- when he graced the screen alongside Bugs Bunny, instilling in youth the ability to fly (shockingly, it was not under “Career Highs” either). I figure if they mention his baseball career, it’s unfair not to mention his acting stint. I have taken it upon myself to create an entry: “Michael Jordan’s Oscar Oversight Male Lead - Space Jam.”
What was in your Discman circa ’96? The Space Jam soundtrack: Quad City DJs tore it up (... Make sure not to turn it sideways, it will skip!). Let’s face it, who wasn’t inspired by the opening scene of a young MJ shooting around in his backyard as R. Kelly’s (pre peeing incidents) "I Believe I Can Fly" highlights the determination, leading children everywhere to dream of becoming a Tarheel. I laced up my Nikes and took it to the concrete streets, ordered a North Carolina sweatshirt, because we all just wanted to be "Like Mike." He got cut from his high school basketball team, so anything is possible: it just takes hard work and perseverance. Even if you are a 5’4” white kid who grew up 90-minutes outside of Compton, on the not-so-mean streets of Santa Barbara.
Let’s note, before we get into the complexities of the plot, first there was the Dream Team, then there was the cast of Space Jam. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bouges, Shawn Bradley, Larry Bird, Bill Murray and fucking Newman. This movie was athletically stacked as "Old School" was comedically stacked plus Murray and Newman.
The movie shows Jordan as a family man in under-whelmingly reasonable suburban middle class neighborhood: He’s MJ, king of the world in ’96. Then we are revealed Moron Mountain and the greedy Madoff-esque alien running the show, demanding they have better attractions. The aliens missed the Emancipation Proclamation memo outlawing slavery and decide to capture the Looney Toons and make them a zoo attraction. With plans to torture to Looney Toons through, in the words of Bugs Bunny: “Stand Up Comedy: the same jokes every night over and over again.” The humanity! That’s like watching Carrot Top’s residency in Vegas.
So the aliens take a trip to attempt the kidnap the Looney Tunes and are greeted by the ever witty Bugs, "Eh what’s up doc?” He fucks with them for a little before the aliens take out their guns and fuck his shit up. Bugs holds a town hall meeting where the Aliens reveal the Looney Toons are all their prisoners. Again, they must have missed lessons in WW2: This capturing and enslaving an entire race never goes over well.
Then Bugs to the rescue reminding them this is a toon-ocracy and “you can’t just make us slaves, we need a chance to defend ourselves.” So they find the enemies weakness: They’re height challenged. The Looney Toons can easily shake checks off their Nikes, or so they thought. Cue the plot twist!
We have some quick action to MJ’s baseball career, and finally MJ, Bill Murray, Larry Bird and Newman on the green. MJ gets his first hole in one and shit gets real. As he’s reaching for the ball, he gets sucked down the rabbit hole into Looney Toons town, flash of a WB sign as he’s entering.
Side note: Bill Murray kills it in an umbrella hat and plaid shorts on the golf course. It’s relieving he still holds on to his dream of hooping. Inspiring even, if you will. Also great line from Bill: “Larry’s not white, he’s clear.” Bill we admire your dedication to fucking with people by holding press conferences (a huge, long-running joke) as your attempt to be in the NBA... Bravo.
The aliens one up the Looney Toons and capture the talent of the greatest basketball players of the 90s, along with Shawn Bradley. The Looney Tunes realize they need MJ, hence sucking him through the rabbit hole. MJ doesn’t question it too much, he kind of just goes with it, which makes us wonder if he was on drugs when he filmed this (and/or when he agreed to it?). He tries to claim he doesn’t hoop anymore, but that’s like Lindsay Lo claiming she doesn’t party and Bugs calls him out for it….like a fucking Boss:
MJ: “I’m a baseball player.”
Bugs: “Right, and I’m a Shakespeain actor.”
Here is where we learn you should never try and be something you’re not. Our team of NBA players are now on the disabled list searching for their lost game. They’ve got a case of the Basketball Jones, or as Charles Barkley puts it they are “tuuurrriiibbllle.” They see shrinks, doctors, everyone.
Shrink to Ewing: “Are there any other areas aside from basketball that you find yourself, unable to perform?”
A line for the parents... One I did not understand until my adult viewing.
“I’ll never go out with Madonna again.”- Charles Barkley, if this is all the came out of him losing his talent. I’d call it a win.
Meanwhile the Tune Squad is gearing up. Lola Bunny shows up and proves that it’s possible to be attracted to a cartoon female rabbit, never say never. Crop top and Sofee shorts making us think “Oh, Maybe I do like it when girls play sports, why isn’t there a Women’s NBA?” Flash forward a year later to ’97 and the WNBA had their first tip-off, so it’s safe to say that Lola Bunny paved the way for that organization.
To prove what a boss he is, MJ has his demands fulfilled even while being held hostage. I mean, he NEEDS the Carolina shorts. Confirmed: MJ has a trophy room when Bugs and Daffy go to grab his shorts. “Here you go Bugs” – MJ’s kid. The kids were not worried about a potential break in and seem to be ok with the fact their father is missing. Jeff doesn’t even question giving a cartoon bunny his dad’s college shorts. Like father like son.
Back to Looney Toon Land... In walks MJ in his gear: “Let’s see if remember how to do this.” And boy does he.
The Tune Squad is pretty nervous on game day and MJ reminds them “Guys let’s just go out and have fun,” as Vince Lomardi says in the back of his head “if winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?” I wonder if MJ ever said this to Rodman, Steve Kerr or Pippen? Probs on the regs, because as long as you’re having fun nothing else matters. The true MJ spirit!
Naturally, the Tune Squad does not fare well against the stacked MonStars: It’s like watching the first round auditions of American Idol... just painful. Then half time comes. MJ loses his carefree “let’s just have some fun” attitude and goes into competitive mode “I didn’t get dragged down here to get my butt kicked by a bunch of ugly MonStars... I ain’t goin out like that.” He goes into Al Pacino "Any Given Sunday" inspirational speech moment. Cough, cough... Oscar.
Fuck the speech, give me the roids. Just when you think Looney Toons don’t need any dope.... Michael and Bugs dope them up on his “Special Stuff” (...which is just water...mind over matter). Fortunately, this is just a movie and no athlete would ever cheat, only trick their mind into a mind over matter "I Believe I Can Fly" moment. Right Lance and Barry?
Jordan and crew strut back on the court to hear Madoff alien speaking of capturing MJ instead. Since Michael Jordan is all for raising stakes, no matter how high. He makes a deal with the devil and says if Tune Squad wins, MonStars need to hand over the talent of his buddies. If they lose, MJ will go to Moran Mountain. Michael Jordan has never had a problem gambling, so this was natural for him. And the plot thickens.
We have a brief "Love and Basketball" moment when Bugs rescues his damsel in distress and Lola lays one on him. Can’t have a movie without romance, right!?
Then Newman enters the game: Thank God it wasn’t raining and there were no paisanos to be delivered. Newman is on the bench within seconds of going in “big man pancake”... or Newman balloon?
Oh no! The Tune Squad will have to forfeit the game if they don’t have a fifth player....”DA DA DA DA DA DA DDUUUUNNNN” In walks Bill Murray, who obviously has permanent access to Looney Toon Land. Whoooaaaa: Bill Murray doesn’t play defense, so you run the O and I’ll run the D, come’on baby just Jam for me! This is why Bill Murray was born “I thrive under pressure.”
After a heroic dunk by Michael, in which he finds his happy place and ability to fly again (Ruffffiooooo), the Tune Squad wins the game! B Murray Out. Michael boards a space ship to make it to his baseball game which lands in center field. Everyone is so happy MJ is back they fail to notice the Alien space shuttle that has landed in center field blarring “I Believe I Can Fly." Just another day at the ball park, Cracker Jacks, Brews, and UFOs. Man, the '90s were WEIRD.
Michael gives the players back their game and then does the world a favor by giving himself back to the game... Welcome Back, Number 45! But lets not forget that could’ve been Bill Murray... Cue Seal, “Fly Like an Eagle.”
So. Light up a J, roll a blunt, and re-live this movie in all its glory then ponder what this pitch meeting was like for Michael Jordan, we think it started with something like...
WB: Michael, I want you to picture this... A civil rights movie about an African American who is enslaved by these monstrous characters and at the end of the movie is given a chance to gain his freedom through a game of competition. Your character will be viewed as a great emancipator, like Lincoln, people will be saying, Roots, Mississippi Burning and Space Jam in the same sentence. You are a lock for an Oscar.
We’ll let you take it from there. As Michael would say, “Have fun with it”.
The following is a joint effort between Cody Capers and Justin Hawkins.