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The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

‘Space Jam’ Review

Come on and Slam
Photo from IMDb.
Photo from IMDb.

What goes together like peanut butter and jelly?

If you answered Michael Jordan and The Looney Tunes, you’d be somewhat correct. Space Jam takes these two seemingly separate entities and molds them together into a feature film. On paper, this seems like an interesting, albeit strange, concept. Yet, the film itself is a genuinely enjoyable time…if you’re willing to suspend disbelief. 

Space Jam follows two narratives that intertwine. The first is the story of Michael Jordan (Yes, THE Michael Jordan played by himself) as he navigates a career in baseball after deciding to retire from basketball. This is where the theme of this movie becomes apparent. It deals with finding what makes you really happy. It’s not a particularly deep theme, as the movie itself is kept pretty light for children. The second involves the Looney Tunes who are forced to defend themselves from being kidnapped by aliens. In order to keep their freedom, they must defeat the aliens in a basketball game. To do this, they enlist the help of Jordan. Thus, Jordan assists the Looney Tunes all while he tries to rekindle his love for basketball. 

The plot itself isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off. It’s the cameos by the various Looney Tunes characters that drive the film forward. Almost all of the Tunes are present, and they all play off of each other just like they would on a TV episode. Any fan of the Tunes will find joy in the moments they’re on screen. Some of my favorite parts of the film were the completely animated portions. With some scenes being completely animated, the characters are allowed to utilize facial expressions and gestures not commonly seen during the live-action segments. It’s an excellent change of pace whenever the Tunes are on screen, as the animators did a fantastic job keeping it constantly refreshing.

Yet, that leads into one of my biggest problems with the film. This movie had a unique challenge of being both live-action and animated. While the animated portions are engaging to watch, the live-action segments leave much to be desired. It’s fair to say that Michael Jordan is an athlete and no actor. Grading him based on his acting when he had no formal training would not be fair. However, it becomes painfully obvious how much work Jordan had cut out for him when he shares the screen with the Tunes. Playing off of other characters when they’re physically in the scene is much easier than having to act to a character who won’t be animated into the scene until post-production. 

An example of this comes when Jordan is training the Tunes in the gymnasium. Being surrounded by animated characters as the only human on screen proves difficult. With the action moving swiftly from place to place, Joran is just unable to keep up. His reactions are delayed, causing him to still be acknowledging one situation when an entirely new problem has already established itself. Additionally, without the ability to play off of someone else’s energy, Jordan tends to just stand still as the scene becomes wilder. His lack of emotion and energy becomes apparent, and diminishes the scene. Going back to the theme of this movie, scenes like this cause me to question whether Jordan cares about the message or the paycheck.

Having Jordan in scenes with the Tunes also hurts the lighting and coloring. Putting a human in an animated setting is a struggle due to the immense amount of work needed to make the scene look natural. Sadly, Space Jam is unable to successfully balance its color and lighting. When Jordan is on screen with the Tunes, he tends to look washed out, unable to match the colorful world he’s inhabiting. This is partly due to the lighting. The animators did not apply the same lighting to their scenes, causing Jordan to look much darker in tone. It’s mainly noticeable in scenes with a lot of Tunes and less humans. 

Another gripe I have with the movie involves the camera angles. Considering that Jordan is much bigger than the tunes, sometimes the camera can’t fit everything into frame. The movie unfortunately does not utilize many pans, making it hard to grasp the Tunes in relation to Jordan. I found it annoying when I saw characters cut-off in the frame because of the lack of camera movement or wide shots.

This movie was clearly made with kids in mind. The script and dialogue is not astounding, but that’s okay. This movie hinges on its mixture of the animated world of The Looney Tunes and the real-life world of sports. Deep characterization and expert writing is not required to have fun watching this movie. Expecting well-crafted lore with complex characters is a fool’s errand. I’d argue that the lack of attention put into the script helps keep this movie light and fun. It provides the opportunity to turn off one’s brain and relax. Like I said earlier, suspending disbelief will determine the amount of enjoyment you can find in the movie. 

While Space Jam is a fun movie to sit down and watch, there are many glaring issues that take away from the experience. Michael Jordan’s lack of acting skills cause any scene he’s in with the Tunes to suffer and lose energy. Failure to balance lighting washes the color away, which takes the viewer out of the experience. A lack of well-shot camera angles cuts off shots that otherwise require more action. That all being said though, there is still so much to find fun with this film. Whether it be in wild antics of the looney Tunes, or the guest appearance from Bill Murray, almost anyone can find something to like. The film is by no means “good,” but it is something to sit down and have a fun time with, even if certain aspects do detract from that fun at times. 

Score: 5.5/10

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