What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

So everybody’s talking about Space Jam again. How did that happen?

It’s become obvious to me that Space Jam, for better or for worse, has ended up way more culturally significant than anyone could have predicted at the time. By all rights, it should’ve been a minor footnote in the lives of everyone involved. It was financially successful, but didn’t make any major waves or spawn a new franchise. It was critically panned, but not so much as to be particularly infamous. So back in 1996, there was no reason to believe it would be anything more than an occasionally remembered mistake. “Oh yeah, Michael Jordan was in a movie with Bugs Bunny that one time.”

But Space Jam didn’t disappear. Not only is the movie’s official website still online, totally unchanged since 1996, but it apparently so imprinted itself on our collective cultural psyche that 18 years later, the very mention of it lit Twitter ablaze, and opened up a generational schism that no one had noticed until now. How that happened, one can only guess.

What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

…And my guess is that apparently my own personal experience with Space Jam was eerily identical to that of my fellow Millennials.

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I was about 7 or 8 when my parents handed me a VHS copy of Space Jam to add to my cadre of electronic babysitters. And like every video I had at that age, I watched it again, and again, and again, until I could recite it from memory. Many years later, when I discovered the internet and these people called “critics” who wrote things called “reviews”, I was a little shocked and discouraged to learn that Space Jam, my childhood classic, the epic conflict between the Tune Squad and the MonStars, the Titanomachy of my generation… was popularly considered to be not a very good movie. Eager to fit in, and developing a budding love for movies and the critiquing thereof, I found myself accepting this as simple fact. “Yeah, Space Jam, what a dumb movie, huh?” I would say, while secretly singing that hopelessly addicting Quad City DJ’s song to myself.

What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

But that was the early 2000s. Generation X still largely controlled the voice of the internet. They had been teenagers when Space Jam came out, old enough to recognize obvious commercial cash-ins when they saw them. To Gen-Xers, Space Jam was, at best, a cheesy time capsule of Michael Jordan’s brief dominance of the popular culture, and at worst, the Looney Tunes completely selling out. And I listened to them. After all, they were older and (I told myself) wiser. I wanted to be like them, and I wanted to be a funny and insightful critic that everyone would listen to.

But little did I know that I wasn’t alone. There were legions of Millennials, people my own age for whom Space Jam had also been a VHS classic that defined their childhoods as it did mine, waiting in the wings. They were growing older, and before long they stepped forward to inherit the internet.

In just a few short years, Space Jam went from the butt of ridicule, to semi-ironically appreciated guilty pleasure, to the face of ‘90s-stalgia. Somehow, due to nothing more than timing, Space Jam has become the cultural dividing point between Gen-Xers and Millennials, between whom the internet is now split. No need to quibble over dates any longer to determine which generation you belong to. If you hate Space Jam, you’re a Gen-Xer. If you like it, you’re a Millennial.

And with a recent hoax about the possibility of Space Jam 2 starring LeBron James, suddenly all of this generational contention that had been simmering under the surface boiled over all at once. Who would’ve thought a silly kid’s movie adapted from a Nike commercial could send the internet into a civil war almost two decades after it came out?

So I suppose the question must be asked: Is Space Jam maybe a good movie after all?…No, not terribly, though it’s also not nearly as vile as its reputation has sometimes suggested. The film never was exactly one of the great critical failures. Even the notorious stickler Gene Siskel sided with his cohort Roger Ebert (may they both rest in peace) in giving it a thumbs up. What the film is is just kind of average, made memorable only by a few odd moments of WTFery.

It’s only as an adult that it strikes me as rather bizarre that the film is essentially Michael Jordan fan fiction, in the way it centers itself around Jordan’s real, actual life and career. The film opens with a flashback to his childhood with his dad, whose death led into Jordan’s decision (both in the film and in reality) to quit basketball for baseball, all of which happened only three years prior.

What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

There’s the welcome fact that, despite being based on a sneaker commercial, most of the product placement is rush-delivered in one jokey line of dialogue in an almost satirical fashion. There’s the fact that Bill Murray is in this, playing himself for some reason. There’s the fact that they put a Pulp Fiction reference into a children’s movie*. And there’s the fact that I’m starting to sound like a Buzzfeed article, and I should probably end this line of thought.

[*As a kid, obviously having yet to actually see Pulp Fiction, I thought it was a Men in Black joke.]

What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

But seriously, watching it now, the film isn’t terrible—it’s just not particularly good. There’s some off-color humor that didn’t need to be there, most of the good jokes are recycled from the Looney Tunes’ old shorts, and the story doesn’t quite flow. Jordan’s character arc, if you can call it that, is nothing but him going back to basketball at the end, without any clear reason why saving the Looney Tunes from aliens motivated him to do it. If they could have somehow tied it into the loss of his dad, they might’ve had something. But despite opening the movie with his dad and talk of baseball as though it would matter later, none of it is ever brought up again.

What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

And I suppose I have to address the elephant in the room: Lola Bunny, perhaps the most reviled character to have a lasting impact on the Looney Tunes franchise. Yes, in this, her first appearance, she was rather one-note and not very interesting. At the same time, she or a character very much like her was inevitable, and to be honest, badly needed. Tiny Toon Adventures had just recently proven there was room and demand for a worthy female counterpart to Bugs Bunny, and only a few of the Lady Tunes they already had ever got much attention (it still bugs me that you never see Petunia Pig anymore; she and Porky were a cute couple).

What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

And yes, there’s the sex appeal factor when it comes to Lola, which I know weirds a lot of people out. It was pandering and a bit too risqué for the target audience. But hey, it was a post-Jessica Rabbit world. And well, I won’t lie, the ‘90s were kind of the birth of mainstream furry icons. Between Lola, Minerva Mink, Gadget Hackwrench, and Callie Briggs, I’m surprised any kid left the decade without a taste for it. But the intricacies and cultural history of the furry movement are a whole ‘nother article, and until certain sectors of the internet stop throwing around reactionary accusations of bestiality, that discussion’s never going anywhere anyway. For now, let’s just agree that Lola Bunny’s debut was a little underwritten but mostly harmless, and move on.

In defense of my beloved Space Jam, the film definitely has a charm to it, even without the aid of nostalgia goggles. For one thing, the premise is just so outrageous you can’t help but be drawn in. It’s one of those movies you almost can’t believe exists. It’s about Michael Jordan leading the Looney Tunes in a basketball game against aliens. You can’t even describe the plot without laughing.

What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

And while I’ll never understand why the hell he’s in the movie, Bill Murray is definitely Space Jam’s comedy MVP, at least if you’re an adult with a remotely developed sense of humor. As a kid I barely noticed him, but as a grown-up, his deadpan reactions to the trippy animated madness going on around him provide some of the biggest laughs.

What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

And while it would be disingenuous to describe Michael Jordan as a “good actor”, or even an “actor”, there’s something about his performance that works. By this point in his career, Jordan was basically a god, achieving a cross-cultural prominence that few athletes ever do. He was almost as much of a cartoon character as Bugs Bunny himself, and there’s something larger-than-life about his presence that fits the film’s tone.

But at this point, discussing just how good or bad the movie may or may not be is kinda besides the point. Through little more than luck, Space Jam has transcended that. If you don’t believe me, all you need to do is watch this:

That’s comedian Rachel Bloom singing a song she wrote about Space Jam. I love this video because it’s so genuine and universal. It’s that infectious “OMG I loved this when I was kid!” enthusiasm that anyone can relate to, even if Space Jam wasn’t your thing. If you’re on the outside of this fandom looking in, that really is all you need to know about why Space Jam means so much to so many people. Because it just does. Because it’s about Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny fighting aliens. Because it was our first exposure to Bill Murray. Because it made us happy once upon a time. It’s really that simple.

Every generation has its guilty pleasures, things that aren’t that great but nonetheless came along at just the time when we needed a good laugh. Generation X still manages to forget that almost every cartoon they watched in the ‘80s was cheap and awful*. And I’m sure in another ten years, there will be plenty of women in their twenties and thirties coming to terms with how much they used to be into Twilight**. And regardless of whether or not there ever is a Space Jam 2 or how silly and overblown the controversy, this whole thing gave me an excuse to revisit a movie I love and feel a part of as a cultural movement. And I like that.

What the f@#% is the big deal about Space Jam?

[*Seriously, He-Man? Transformers? Unwatchable today. If nothing else, the ‘90s had way more cartoons that still hold up as an adult.]

[**I honestly can’t wait to see how Twilight nostalgia plays out.]

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  • Murry Chang

    Thanks for reminding me about Quad City DJ’s, they were actually a good group and they’re on Grooveshark:)

  • MichaelANovelli

    I just wish this movie had come out a year later, so we could have gotten some ska or swing revival music in it! ^_^

  • rpdavies

    I remember this coming out but never got round to seeing it until it was on TV.

    No mention of R Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly? a song that can form strong opinions for better or worse.

    I did something about the website that showed it to be very “of it’s time”

  • Bouncy X

    the scary thing with Twilight, it already has women in their 30s and 40s thinking its good and wanting to perform statutory rape. well it was statutory at the time the first two movies came around. as for this movie, i’m guess i’m in that minority who’s too young to be gen x but to old to be millennial but still liked this at the time and own the blu-ray today.

  • Maybe another dividing line between these generations is the Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show? By the time Space Jam came out, we had already spent countless Saturdays seeing the originals. It’s no surprise that we saw the movie as an irritating example of trying to update and therefore resell a cherished part of childhood.

    (And fine, I’ll also admit that the 90’s shows were generally better in retrospect. 80’s Thundercats, Ghostbusters, Ninja Turtles, Inspector Gadget, etc. indeed weren’t as great as I remembered.)

    • I’m old enough to remember the Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show. It’s not like Space Jam was my introduction to the Looney Tunes, I too spent countless hours watching the classic shorts. I can’t really account for why Space Jam didn’t bother me or feel like the Looney Tunes selling out, it just didn’t.

      • Muthsarah

        Yeah, that’s a big issue. If you enjoy a comedy with Bugs and Michael Jordan playing basketball, I can understand the appeal. But the selling out bit…You touched on it above, but you never actually said whether or not you understand that particular complaint. I remember all sorts of kids in elementary school wearing T-shirts with Bugs and Taz dressed up in saggy shorts and backwards caps, striking “street” poses and scowling and stuff. I remember having a hard time understanding what these images had to do with the classic cartoons I was still discovering, with the old cars and Bugs as a door-to-door salesman and 1950s suburbian settings and stuff like that. I was probably too young to know what “selling out” was or thinking it was bad (“money’s good, isn’t it?”), but in retrospect, everything that they did to the Looney Tunes was cynical and tasteless.

        Muppet Babies (a GOOD 1980s cartoon, along with Ducktales) re-invented a known and loved product (based on a scene from Muppets Take Manhattan, so fitting), but kept the spirit of it intact. But the “modernized” Looney Tunes were born with that ad campaign, so…Space Jam was TWO ad campaigns smooshed together. Just….Birthdate be damned, I’m Team X here.

        • I get the complaint, I do. It’s replacing timelessness with trends, it’s the Poochie formula, and it bothers me too as I get older. But back then, yeah, I was totally on board with that shit. One of my favorite articles of clothing at that age was a tank top with Bugs, Daffy (and I think Taz) as 90’s surfer dudes. What can I say, I was 8.

          • Muthsarah

            But…you’re not back then now. None of us are.

            Reading your review/blogpost above again, I’m still reading like 90% nostalgia, 10% current. To whom am I speaking?

          • I’m not sure what you’re asking. At what point did I deny being massively nostalgic for this movie? That’s kinda the whole point of the article.

          • Muthsarah

            Again, I’m on the other side of the New Great Intergenerational Internet Dispute of Our Times. If you mean to be wearing your nostalgia on your sleeve, then…there’s nothing I can say. I can’t take your memories away from you. And I wouldn’t want to. Especially as, clearly, they were quite different from mine.

            Ultimately, I agree with the most forwardly-stated opinion of your article: “What the **** is the big deal about Space Jam?” It really doesn’t seem worth making a mess of. Although it IS kinda surreal how much ado has been made of something I suspect most of us haven’t thought about for a decade or longer. Doubly so as it was apparently (*shifty eyed glance*) all over a hoax.

            To me, this is no big deal at all. The movie was always meaningless cash-in fluff. The other stuff with the Looney Tunes marketing preceded the movie, and it’s not fair to blame the movie for a commercial movement it was only on the tail end of.

            I don’t wanna take this movie away from you. I hope you enjoy it*. But, ten times over, I hope you ALSO can enjoy all the great stuff the “Tunes” were involved in the ’40s and ’50s. Time be damned, those are still MY Looney Tunes.

            * – I also hope you post more often. Where have you been?

  • Muthsarah

    “And while I’ll never understand why the hell he’s in the movie, Bill Murray is definitely Space Jam’s
    comedy MVP, at least if you’re an adult with a remotely developed sense
    of humor. As a kid I barely noticed him, but as a grown-up, his deadpan
    reactions to the trippy animated madness going on around him provide
    some of the biggest laughs.

    […]

    Because it was our first exposure to Bill Murray.”

    So…no one else saw Ghostbusters as a kid? It’s totally kid-friendly. All the sex jokes are subtle; they went right over my head. And Groundhog Day. And What About Bob?

    Being 8 and not knowing who Bill Murray is. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone’s kids.

    • Ghostbusters was 5 years before I was born, I was 2 when What About Bob? came out and 4 when Groundhog Day came out. What can I say, my parents didn’t show me Bill Murray movies, I didn’t really discover him until my teens.

      • Muthsarah

        Until YOUR teens? So…like yesterday? Did your parents let you see Lost in Translation?

        I’m only two years older than you, but I feel confused and paranoid right now. Like an old person. Back in my day, we had VCRs. You recorded stuff. Like Ghostbusters. And Groundhog Day. And then, get this, you watched it later.

        This questioning of Bill Murray’s place in my childhood pantheon. It’s shaking the very foundations of the universe.

        • I don’t think my parents have ever even heard of Lost in Translation.

          Is it the use of the phrase “our first exposure” that you’re hung up on? Did I overstep my bounds in speaking for an entire generation there? Probably.

          • Muthsarah

            Yeah, I do think that over-reached a bit, but I don’t blame you. I do that kind of over-generalization quite a bit. And just as you can’t assume to speak for a generation, neither can I. It’s an assumption I make almost on knee-jerk reflex. Echo-chamber-like. And….well….from what I glean, I suspect much of the comment board here would prolly identify more with you than with the Gen Xers. The more contact and communication I have with online types, the more convinced I become that I’m a statistical anomaly. Not irrelevant, per se, but not someone who should reasonably be expecting to be anywhere close to “normality”. I shoulda be born earlier.

            I don’t wanna make this all about me (and yet, I know I so frequently do so), but I often find it easier to identify with the more Gen X-er reviewers than with “my fellow” Millenials. I feel like I grew up with aesthetic values a few years before most of my contemporaries (not surprising, given the influence of my older sibs). Prolly why I gravitate towards Albert and Cecil and similar critical voices. They’re not of my age bracket, but they’re more of my sensibilities. Caught between two generations. Wouldn’t wish it on you.

            Not taking anything away from you. I like what you do, Joshua. I just feel so much older than I feel you are. Age ain’t nuthin’ but a number, to quote someone you’ve prolly never heard of.

      • Albert Giesbrecht

        So, I guess you missed him on Saturday Night Live. He replaced Chevy Chase.

  • $36060516

    “Generation X still manages to forget that almost every cartoon they watched in the ‘80s was cheap and awful*”

    I never forgot! Hated most of them at the time, preferring old cartoons from the movie house era (old Looney Tunes, etc.), Peanuts holiday specials (pre-’80s), and little bits of anime I got to glimpse.

    • Cristiona

      Well… sort of. Honestly, the worst part about 80s toons was the voice acting.

      I mean, really. Did they actively seek out the worst actors they could find? Those people made dinner theater look like the Tony’s.

      • Muthsarah

        ….It was the writing. 80s toons always assumed the viewers were not only children, but idiot children. Aside from the rare GOOD 1980s show. Read some of the scripts. Yeah, the voicing wadn’t great, but with the dialogue provided, how could anyone but a possibly-irate Orson Welles* push for anything better.

        English/American-language voice acting is tradtionally awful, regardless of era, regardless of intended audience, regardless of seemingly everything. Even with Miyazaki dubs, they tend to recruit actors who have no commitment to the story, blandly speak their lines, and pointlessly attempt to match the (not even attempted by the Japanese) mouth-movement of the animation.

        Dubbing isn’t yet an art in this hemisphere. Too often, it’s treated as condescending, lazy, busywork. For pay.

        * – Please someone get this reference.

        • $36060516

          The artwork was really uninspired in most of the ’80s shows as well. Basically, Hanna-Barbera was the bane of my existence as a kid who liked cartoons trying to find something good on a Saturday morning.

          • Muthsarah

            Oh God, Hanna-Barbera was almost quite possibly the death of animation in general. But Filmmation….that was an industrialized form of laziness. H-B skipped many an animation cell. Filmmation skipped scenes as a whole, just inserting new frames into old situations, just repeating the same motions over and over. I actually watched several episode of “He-Man” several years back. It was fun, but also horribly depressing, in the grander scheme of things.

            Sometimes, I honestly don’t know how the medium survived. Sure, the “Fritz the Cat” and stuff had a place, with the auteur Bakshis and Bluth, and though Disney found ways to improve upon them, they seemed more like grave-robbers. Between “Robin Hood” (a rather hack Disney project anyway) and “The Secret of NIMH”, I think it took a miracle – if not a deal with the Devil – for the industry to survive, and so kept the seed of animation inspiration alive until Disney finally extracted their collective heads from their collective @$$es and finally got back to the job the almighty (Hollywood) intended of them. Overall, with the exception of the rare Bluth film, the entire period between “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Little Mermaid” is almost best left forgotten. Over twenty years. So much time wasted. So much auteur juice loosed…for nothing.

          • $36060516

            Hm… I wouldn’t go as far as cutting off at “Sleeping Beauty,” but I will say the saving grace of the ’80s were the independent animated short festivals at art house theaters and MTV’s occasional animated videos. Other ’80s things that stood out as good were the animated segments of “Pink Floyd’s The Wall,” the Raymond Briggs adaptations “The Snowman” and “When the Wind Blows,” and the primitive yet extremely funny first “Simpsons” shorts on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in 1987 and the start of the series in 1989. I need to see “The Plague Dogs,” which was in the early ’80s and sounds promising as well.

          • Muthsarah

            I also completely left out The Great Mouse Detective. That last comment WAS rushed.

        • Cristiona

          The writing certainly wasn’t stellar, but I think you’re off on the VA.

          There’s a ton of cartoons, especially in the 90s, that had great voice work: Tiny Toons, Freakazoid, Animaniacs, Duck Tales… Hell, even Dora the Explorer is light years ahead of most any 80s toon. Just listen to a clip, any clip, of Panthro from Thundercats. It sounds like he just learned how to read the day before.

          Although, Dungeons and Dragons had reasonably passable dubbing. For the most part.

          • Muthsarah

            1. I’m not aware of any D&D animated series.

            2. 1990s voice work is beyond the scope of Joshua’s implied $#!+-list.

            3. Muppet Babies and Ducktales are pure and wonderful and awesome except in the ways that they are inferior to RESCUE RANGERS. Fact! Greatest TV show of my early years. Will love forever and will fight to the death in ritualized pistol duels forever.

            4. Thundercats – I betray my presumption – is before my time. I know nothing of these “Thundercats” and whether or not they may or may not be “go”.

            5. I aint – and never would be – hatin’ on ’90s toons. It was a blissful time, the first half at least. Always in retrospect. So sayeth the VHS.

          • MichaelANovelli

            I interviewed the guy who wrote the D&D series. It’s on this site under the name Rowby Goren.

        • Guest

          What are your thoughts on English dubs made by FUNimation, Ocean Group, Media Blasters, Bang Zoom! Entertainment Sentai Filmworks/Section23 Films, etc, then? Do you think that the actors of whom these companies hire are the kind that have no commitment to the the story act blandly as possible and just treat English dubs as something to just go through the motions in order to get paid?

        • Anonymous

          Nothing personal, I understand your frustration over certain voice acting, but just becasuse your angry doesn’t mean that I have to be angry as well. What’s done is done. I mostly grew up with whatever was shown in Finland in the 90s and the early 2000s.
          I was just confused as to why people would get angry or mad at a certain cartoon, movie, acting and wrting durin my early days of the Internet surfing. And besides i had to learn english By other means besides reading.

  • maarvarq

    Anyone else old enough to have seen this movie and been pretty much forced to compare it unfavourably with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Anyone? Cool World and Monkeybone suffered for me in the same way, but I don’t think either of those were great or even much good either.

    • Muthsarah

      Even though live-action/animation hybrid movies are quite rare, it never occurred to me until now to compare this with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Like Space Jam needs the competition. WFRR was one of the first movies (well, aside from little kids’ stuff) I remember seeing. And it’s still a classic.

    • jbwarner86

      I still don’t get why Warner Bros. thinks a Looney Tunes movie needs to be a live action/animated hybrid in the first place. Seven years after this, we got Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which was just painfully bad. Why do they think the Looney Tunes need the support of human costars in order to carry a film? They’re the fucking Looney Tunes. I think it’s pretty well established after 84 years that people love these characters all on their own. They can do all right for themselves without Michael Jordan or Brendan Fraser hanging around.

  • jbwarner86

    I was nine when this came out, and I couldn’t have cared less about basketball, but I was a huge Looney Tunes fan. And when I say huge, I mean I already owned books about the history of Warner Bros. animation and read them cover to cover, so I knew who guys like Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett were and the impact they had on the world of animated comedy. And even though this movie more or less spit in the face of all that, I still thought it was the coolest thing ever. It was all the Looney Tunes together in one movie! To my nine-year-old brain, that was enough.

    It’s certainly not what I would call good. It’s not a good Looney Tunes movie, it’s not a good Michael Jordan movie, and it isn’t very funny. But it’s still bizarrely compelling as such a shameless by-product of mid-1990s executive thinking that I still find it peculiarly fascinating to this day. The central thought process of “Hey, you know those Hare Jordan commercials everyone likes? Let’s make a movie out of those! With aliens!” is just so fundamentally stupid, you can’t bring yourself to look away.

    And my inner nine-year-old self will always get a kick out of seeing Tweety go all kung-fu on the Monstars’ asses.

  • To be honest if it hadn’t been for the pervasive attitude of ‘the Star Wars prequels suck’ that has permeated across the internet I think we’d have an equally rabid nostalgic fanbase for them from my generation.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Hey, I liked the prequels.

      • So did I (well, the first two). I saw them for my 6th, 9th and 12th birthdays.

  • Murry Chang

    I think your comparison of 80’s cartoons with a kids movie from the 90’s isn’t very apt. Compare cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s I’ll grant the 90’s a victory every time, but as far as kids movies the 80’s have a big lead.

    • Albert Giesbrecht

      Compare cartoons from the 50’s and 60’s to cartoons from the 90’s.

      • Murry Chang

        Not sure how that matters, but lots of 90’s animation was heavily influenced by classic stuff. Batman TAS, for example, drew a lot from the Fleischer Superman shorts.

  • nejiblue

    Still, and always will be, a shitty movie compared to who framed roger rabbit. Oh, and I have no issues admitting transformers was a crap show, despite buying the toys when I was a kid. You might as well have shortened this shitty review to “I love it because nostaligia” and left it at that. Because that’s all you’re saying.

  • The_Stig

    Space Jam gets both more love and more hate than it deserves. I’ve always thought of it as just a fun time-wasting romp. Besides, Back in Action was WAY worse.

    Still, it made me sad that Space Jam 2 starring LeBron James wasn’t actually in the works. I couldn’t wait for the scene where LeBron defects from the Toons to play for the Monstars.

    • Sand Ripper

      Back in Action did the impossible: it made me hate Daffy Duck.

    • William Glover

      I come from a not too distant future, where it actually IS in the works!

      • mamba

        I come from a further future where it’s doomed. From the fingers of the director:

        http://whatculture.com/film-tv/space-jam-director-says-sequel-is-doomed

        • William Glover

          The PREVIOUS director. 🙂

          • mamba

            Fair enough, they might find someone to take it on, but if the person who made the original so beloved can’t picture it, hard to have a lot of faith on this one.

            Still, Batman was dead post B&R until Nolan took it on, so differing opinions matter. The question is, with such different cast and different director, would it even be Space Jam anymore in a way the fan would want? Dunno…

          • William Glover

            I could picture Lebron having the star power Jordan had. Don’t know what the old director is on about.

  • Sofie Liv

    I have to admit, I had a weak spot for this movie growing up.
    I don’t know how old I was when I saw it the first time but… not very old. And I watched it with terrible Danish dubs as well in television.
    Still, little naive me really liked it.

    I had no idea what Roger Rabbit was when I was a kid, it was never a thing in Denmark, so this is kind of the movie I had in this genre, and I enjoyed it immensly as a child.

    As an adult.. yeah.. it’s dumb, I can see that. But dammit, I can’t help having a weak spot. And that is in spite of me never had any idea what so ever what all the commercial thing or Jordan.. I had no idea who he was or that he was an actual bassball player or any of that… I just saw a movie about a bassball player turning to basketball.. and bassball has never been a thing in Denmark so to heck if I knew what that was about.
    Beside, dubbing life action is always going to be terrible, so even if he acted well in the english version, I wouldn’t have known it due to terrible dubbing. They all sounded stupid and out of sync!

    I also have to admit I have a weak spot for looney toons back in action when I saw it years later, neither is that a good movie, but I can appreciate it for what it tried to do, it had its heart in the right place.. which this movie.. probably didn’t..

    But dangit! Childhood memories!

    • Muthsarah

      Something rather amusing about seeing Michael Jordan’s lips move and have a Scandinavian language coming out of it.

      P.S. You’ve since seen Roger Rabbit, right? Right?

      • Sofie Liv

        Of course I have, I have it on DVD and every-thing.

        But, ‘i first managed to see it as an adult as people elsewhere on the enternet kept bringing it up, so I got no nostalgia feelings towards it, unfortunately.

  • Sand Ripper

    Loony Toons are timeless. Space Jam is not; it’s just another crummy kids’ movie elevated to classic status by twenty-somethings who should know better.

    • danbreunig

      Same with Peanuts and many DC/Marvel figures: it’s the characters themselves that are timeless and endearing and not really the specials, movies, or shows they’re featured in. The shows etc. are most meaningful on a personal basis–if what shows with classic characters that you watched at that moment in youth made you enjoy it, it’s hard not to personally call it classic.

  • John Wilson

    Josh what did you think of “Back in action”? I thought it was zany awesome:)

    • Eh, it was ok. I was a teenager by the time that came out so I was a slightly more discerning (emphasis on “slightly”). Fraser & Elfman really dragged it down, though.

  • Gallen_Dugall

    I tired to watch Space Jam after having only heard positive things about it. Unwatchable.

  • Alexa

    I didn’t really like this movie when I was a kid, I thought it too short…Not that you could stretch it even farther, but yeah I wanted more for some reason. So I guess that means I did like it, because I wanted to watch more looney toons hijinks, because well why not I always loved toons interacting with real people *shrugs*

  • Honestly… I saw Space Jam in theaters and I didn’t hate it. Yeah, it’s not a great movie and really probably should have been watched and discarded form memory, but really it wasn’t horrible or anything. If anything involving the Looney Toons was horrible, then I direct you to “Lunatics Unleashed” – THAT was a horrible mess of a use for those characters.

    But Space Jam? It was fun enough for 1.5 hours and I didn’t want my time back after it was over.

  • Albert Giesbrecht

    “Generation X still largely controlled the voice of the internet. They had been teenagers when Space Jam came out…”

    Not quite, Generation X were in their early 30’s when Space Jam came out. Generation Y were in their teens. Millennials were kids.

  • @Muthsarah:disqus If I may ask, what are your thoughts on English dubs produced by FUNimation, Ocean Group, Media Blasters, Bang Zoom! Entertainment, Sentai Filmworks/Section23 Films, etc, then?

    Do you think that the actors of whom these companies hire are the kind that have no commitment to the the story act blandly as possible and just treat English dubs as something to just go through the motions in order to get paid?

    • Muthsarah

      1. I’m going to assume you’re responding to any/all of my criticisms/gripes about American animated shows of the 1980s AND American dubbing of anime…like in general.

      2. I had to look up those five production/dubbing companies. Between them, I think I’ve seen about four or five of their shows dubbed (and probably another ten or twelve more purely subbed) EDIT: FWIW, Fushigi Yuugi, InuYasha, some manner of Dragonball, and the fourth and/or fifth one I forgot….I haven’t watched any of these shows in a decade or longer. And I do recall them all sounding awkward and unnatural and oh God I hope nobody can overhear me watching this show from another room because this all sounds so fake and awful and embarrassing.

      3. In reference to your specific question, all I can say is…it may not be reasonable to accuse voice actors of being lazy, but I can’t escape the impression that the production IS lazy somewhere, because the finished product never comes off well.

      I understand that even the dubs with high production values (recent Ghibli–>Disneys) still insist on matching the movement of the characters’ mouths (which, from what I gather, happens even in most Japanese productions, who do the animation ahead of time…for some reason), which results in unnatural speech that makes every character come off like someone who learned their lines phonetically. And, yeah, it completely takes me out of the story, kills any jokes, and dispels any dramatic tension when I’m cringing every time a character speaks. Maybe I already said this somewhere down below (you clearly have read something I wrote here), but Japanese, at the very least, has some wiggle room in that, even if I KNOW that a particular character is speaking unnaturally even for Japanese, I couldn’t necessarily pick that up line for line. I’ve heard spoken Japanese quite a bit (outside of anime, I mean), but I don’t know innately how it’s supposed to sound and not sound, I only know from memory, or secondhand, through explanations and/or Japanese spoken slowly for my non-fluent ears. Whether due to the decision to match the mouth movements, the quality of the translations, or the effort or talent of the voice actors involved, the resulting quality of spoken English always rings terribly poor in my ears, because I KNOW the characters aren’t supposed to sound the way they do, because NOBODY sounds like that. I have never watched a single dub that sounded natural to me*, and I grew up with lots of dubbed shows (not all of them Japanese). Even the ones that are wildly popular as “excellent” dubs, even the ones the Japanese creators insist are superior to the Japanese dubs themselves.

      * – EDIT^6: OK, for what it’s worth, the single best dub I’ve ever heard was the OLD dub for My Neighbor Totoro. Not the Dakota & Elle Fanning one (which, for the record, I haven’t heard), but the one that was made years before. Granted, that was a fairly dialogue-light movie. But I thought the (from what I’ve gathered) relatively inexperienced voice actors did a really, really good job with it. Then again FWIW^3, I’ve never seen Totoro subbed. Never. Easily could. Just…never have. I hate dubbing. I HAAAAAAAATE dubbing. In effect, not so much in principle. But the pre-Fanning English dub of Totoro is nonetheless one of my favorite films. Ever. In any language. I really, really, REEAAALLLY should see it subbed one of these days. But I think I love that version of the film (I very UN-intentionally rented it twice, thinking it was subbed), I think I’m afraid to spoil it. Or, possibly, afraid a subbed version of that film would literally kill me. I’m open-minded on that account.

      EDIT: And, I feel I really should include this bit….whenever I watch an anime series or movie in Japanese, the quality of dialogue doesn’t bother me one bit. Even if it’s stilted, or perfunctory, all it has to do is convey the most important bits of dialogue, while the visuals and the emotions readily apparent in the vocal performance carry the rest. When it’s translated and dubbed into English, the dialogue often sounds horrible. Not just the performance, but the dialogue itself. Now that it’s in my native language, I feel I have to hold it to standards of adult-level dialogue, which translated anime has, again to me, never matched. Translated dialogue is unvaryingly simplistic, too to-the-point, and, above all, again, unnatural. So when the (English-dubbed) characters speak, they speak in a way that no English speaker actually would speak. Subbing just makes things easier. I can far more easily forgive any clumsiness or irregularity of (subtitled) language, because I’m still HEARING the native language (as unnatural as it may be, because, again, innately, I don’t know the difference), and only READING a basic translation, for the simple purpose of translating the main idea of what is being communicated..

      As far as 80s Western animation originally made in English…I’m not that familiar with their production process. But since I’m under the impression that many of them were farmed out to Japan and/or Korea for animation, and because the voice acting was typically stilted, I’m acting under the assumption they were also animated first, and the voice actors were told to fit the mouths rather than sound like natural English speakers. If that’s the standard everywhere, then my main gripe is with that standard. I’d take poor lip sync over strange-sounding dialogue. Probably why I can’t stand dubbed anime, but am totally OK with early Jackie Chan and other Hong Kong dubs. Needless to say, animated shows that fit the animation to the voices, like The Simpsons, Futurama or Archer, are a whole other story.

      If I somewhere called the actors lazy, then I apologize for that. That’s probably assuming too much. But if I called the production as a whole lazy or inept, or even just stopped at criticizing the quality of the work itself, I stand by that. I think dubbing fails to deliver anything entertaining, and is in no way whatsoever (to me) superior or even equal in enjoyment to subs.

      • @Muthsarah:disqus 1. Yes and no.

        2. From what you can remember, what were some English dubs that you did enjoy, (if any)?

        3. So (in addition to subtitle-only releases of most Japanese produced cartoons), you’d rather have a cartoon in which the voice work is done first. Then build the setting, characters and scenarios that characters get involved in around it.

        Also, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but, dubbing companies have gotten much better at getting characters to sound, speak and act in a more natural way since the 1990s.

        Granted, we still have companies like Saban Brands inserting corny jokes, stupid (in a bad way) puns, and try to either make certain locations/events that were Japanese in culture either vague or Americanized.

        But, it’s not as bad as they were before. Here’s a page detailing some examples: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/SuperlativeDubbing/EnglishDubs

        You mentioned 80s American cartoons along with how they were produced and while what you said was/is true for most cartoons produced, it wasn’t true for every cartoon. Take a look at such cartoons like Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures (the series from 1987-88 made by Ralph Bakshi and a then unknown John Kricfalusi) and Dino Riders when you have the time.

        I realize that me getting you convinced that not all English dubs are terrible would be the equivalent of talking to a 90-foot tall castle wall. However, I do implore you to at least give something like Cowboy Bebop and Black Lagoon or BECK Mongolian Chop Squad or even Baccano! a try before you write off spoken word English-language anime translations for good and all.

        Besides, you may never know what you like (or don’t like) until you actually try it out.

        • Muthsarah

          2. The one (and only one) I mentioned, the pre-Fanning My Neighbor Totoro. Seriously. Only one. Not that I’ve sought out too much. But I’ve seen quite a few (mostly 10+ years ago, admittedly), and I’ve tended to hate them all.

          3. Yup. That SO clearly works out so much better for me. Basically, the humor mostly comes from the dialogue, so put the dialogue first, and have the (usually cheap and limited) animation merely provide a visual accompaniment).

          As for the rest, if I haven’t already, I must confess that I’m not a big anine consumer. I had a phase, in my early/mid teens, when I gobbled up all sortsa Ranma/InuYasha/Urusei Yatsura/El-Hazard/Cowboy Bebop/Tenchi Muyo, even Here is Greenwood. Never was into Dragonball, or Pokemon. Or Digimon, or [enterwhateverhere]mon. Didn’t even care about Avatar: The Last Airbender. Early 2000s, just lost interest. Still mid-teens, really. My anime phase was over, Miyazaki (GOD that he is) notwithstanding. Also, saw “The Girl Who Lept Through Time” a coupla years ago. Very, very worth it. Subbed.

          As for 80s cartoons, I grew up mostly on recorded stuff. VCRs. Tracking problems. Hell, I had to regularly bang my first TV on its lid with my fist because it would get visually wonky a lot. It was made of sturdy plastic-with-fake-wooden-panelling. Little me, whupping the $#!+ out of a TV, just to get my VHS tape to display properly. Prolly seems absurd today. But, yeah, I have older sibs who recorded lotsa old shows back when VCRs were new technology, I guess. As a kid, I loved them. As a teen, I felt embarrassed by them. TMNT (the 80s series), Thundercats, BraveStarr, X-Men, buncha old shows that didn’t age well. But I did also have Batman: TAS, DuckTales, Rescue Rangers, and TinyToons. And Animaniacs, what little I had (my brother and sister had grown out of them before I had grown into them, so I didn’t have much). But that’s squarely into 90s stuff. Just that there isn’t a hugely strong line between those eras for me. Anything pre-circa-1995 was childhood for me.

          Yeah, I’ll admit I’m prolly a hard sell on dubbing by this point. I just have my standard, and my standards are what they are. Standards that think that 90s sitcoms are mostly bad (Frasier was good for the first four years only, Seinfeld has aged horribly, Friends was never good, and usually insultingly awful, in retrospect).

          Again, I did go through an anime phase, but it was my older sibs’ anime phase. Ranma, Urusei Yatsura, lotsa 80s stuff that didn’t make its way stateside until the late 90s, when I was first exposed to it at like, 12 or 13 at first. This was pre-Adult Swim. Hell, pre-Futurama and arguably pre-Family Guy. South Park was brand new (and we didn’t even have Comedy Central at the time). The world of animation in America was very, very, very different back then. There just wasn’t much anime. You watched what was on TV (mostly dubbed, usually just Sailor Moon, which, apologies to Nycea, I just NEVER thought much of), or stuff you get from the video store, which was usually subbed. And thus, I built up an appreciation and preference for subs. It just felt…not just more “exotic” and “Japanese”, but just…less annoying, less fake-sounding, and, above all, less-embarrassing-to-be-caught-watching. If you’re not actively looking at the screen, you have no idea what the characters are saying, and if you are, you’re just reading simple lines of dialogue. It just worked better, I feel, than having the dialogue spelled out through clunky speech.

          Really, I think I’m too hard a sell by now. I….just wanna hear Japanese, even bad Japanese, when I watch a Japanese TV show set in Japan with Japanese characters. Again, I’m not a stranger to dubs. I grew up watching both. And I grew up hating dubs, and vastly preferring subs. One makes me feel bad for watching, and the other…just doesn’t. For an entertainment product, that’s a huge distinction.

          And I have watched Cowboy Bebop dubbed, BTW. There ARE worse, granted, but I just cannot honestly say it’s in any way, shape or form preferable to just watching it subbed. As for the rest: never hearda it.

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            I have no problem with dubbed TV-Shows – because: That’s the way I first got in contact with said shows.
            Take Ranma 1/2 for example. I thought, the German version was a bit better than the original one – and I can pinpoint that on one certain scene.
            In the Ranma 1/2 movie “Big trouble in Nekonron, China.” there is a scene, in which Happosai does, what Happosai does best – stealing underwear. of course he wants to swipe one of Akanes panties as well and Ranma stops him.
            He and Happosai enter in an arguement-contest, in which Ranma says, that he does not want to have Akanes panty and is pretty mean to her.
            Of course she listens in on this, standing there and – here comes the difference.

            In the japanese dub, she is already super-angry, yelling at him, screaming and gets even more angry later on.
            In the german dub, at first she’s a little bit angry, but more sardonic – before getting real angry.
            If you ask me, the way, Akane is drawn, is more supportive towards the german dub, than the japanese one.

            Plus: What I found awesome, is that, in the english dub of Ranma, Kodachi Kuno is voice by Teryl Rothery, whom I know as Doctor Janet Fraiser from Stargate SG 1..

          • @Muthsarah

            Okay. So, outside of shows like Archer or The Simpsons, what would be your Ideal animated show outside of it having voice overs recorded before animation?

            As for the shows I mentioned, here’s what I mean:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Lagoon

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baccano!

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beck_(manga)

            And for the 2 80s cartoons I mentioned:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mighty_Mouse:_The_New_Adventures

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dino-Riders

  • anon

    Maybe because I’m female, but I watched this in Primary School in the 90s and I hated it. I like the Loony Tunes but this was boring.