Space Jam appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This was a mostly good presentation.
Sharpness was usually strong, though a few shots looked a bit tentative. Most of those came from elements that combined live action and animation, so it made sense those had some definition problems, but others were slightly soft for no apparent reason
Nonetheless, the vast majority of the movie provided good delineation. I noticed no examples of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement also appeared absent.
Print flaws weren’t a factor, as the movie always looked clean. Light gain materialized - probably too little, as a film from 1996 should display more grain than this. While the use of noise reduction didn’t seem overwhelming, it did leave the flick with a less “film-like” appearance than I’d expect.
As one might expect, Jam came with a broad palette, and the hues looked lively and full. The 4K’s HDR added range and oomph to the tones.
Blacks appeared dark and tight, while shadows were smooth and clear. HDR contributed depth and power to whites and contrast. The image held up well for the most part, but the diminished grain created a modest issue.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, I also felt impressed with the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Space Jam. Actually, while I mostly liked the audio, the soundfield offered a mild disappointment. With the wild and zany universe at play here, I thought the mix would take better advantage of the multi-channel options than it did.
The audio remained oriented toward the front speakers. Within that domain, the soundfield seemed well executed. Elements were appropriately placed and meshed together neatly. Music also showed good stereo imaging.
As for the rear channels, they added some decent reinforcement to the setting, but they lacked the pizzazz I expected. A few sequences – like one with Wile E. Coyote – zoomed around the back nicely, but those scenes occurred less frequently than I’d anticipate.
The somewhat restricted scope of the mix was the only reason it didn’t hit “A” level, for the audio quality seemed terrific. Speech was consistently natural and distinctive, and I noticed no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility.
Effects sounded concise and accurate. They presented solid dimensionality, with clean highs and deep lows.
Music fared especially well, as the score and songs were lively and dynamic. Expect this one to pump your subwoofer actively, as Space Jam offered a satisfying soundtrack.
How did this 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray from 2011? The 4K’s Atmos audio seemed a bit more dynamic than its 5.1 predecessor, though it didn’t reinvent the soundscape in a notable manner.
In terms of visuals, the 4K UHD showed superior delineation, colors and blacks. However, it featured more grain reduction than the Blu-ray did, and that turned into a negative. I’d still probably take the 4K over the Blu-ray, but it didn’t become the upgrade one might hope to find.
Note that Space Jam got a 20th Anniversary release in 2016. However, it simply reissued the 2011 BD in a steelbook case.
On the 4K disc, we get an audio commentary from director Joe Pytka plus Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. A holdover from the 2000 DVD, this track mainly features two folks not directly mentioned on the packaging: voice artists Billy West and Dee Bradley Baker. The performers behind Bugs and Daffy, they speak both in character and as themselves.
In the latter form, they offer the majority of the commentary. Sometimes they just praise the movie and relate the names of other performers, but they also shed some light on the voice acting process and add an interesting perspective.
Their material as Bugs and Daffy pops up fairly infrequently and consists of wry comments about their work and the movie. It’s not exactly a laugh riot, but it’s reasonably entertaining.
As for Pytka, he shows up sporadically, as the commentary offers an odd conceit as part of its construction. While West/Bugs and Baker/Daffy provided a running, screen-specific discussion, Pytka’s parts were clearly recorded separately and edited into the piece.
To create the illusion that he participated with the others, before Pytka speaks, we hear a door open and the sound of footsteps. When he finishes, the footsteps walk away and the door closes. This shouldn’t fool anyone.
I read a few other reviews that claimed Pytka said almost nothing during this commentary, but that’s not accurate. No, he doesn’t remark frequently, but he shows up regularly and adds some decent information.
Among other topics, Pytka discusses how he got onto the project, his relationship with Michael Jordan, dealing with technical issues, and amassing the music soundtrack. When Pytka talks, his statements seem informative and educational. Overall, the commentary has some good moments, but it suffers from way too many gaps, as a lot of empty space mars this presentation.
Some extras appear on the included Blu-ray copy – which replicates the 2011 release – and we find a featurette called Jammin’ With Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. Created at the time of the film’s theatrical release, the 22-minute, 32-second show brings notes from Michael Jordan, director Pytka, executive producer Ivan Reitman, actors Danny De Vito and Wayne Knight, animator Chuck Jones, animation producer Ron Tippe, composer James Newton Howard, and Cinesite CEO Ed Jones.
We learn a little about the production and get some decent glimpses of the creation of the effects. However, the tone remains overwhelmingly promotional, as “Jammin’” exists solely to tell us how wonderful the movie is. This means the result seems generally uninformative and lacks much to make it worth a watch.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we get two music videos. These include Seal’s “Fly Like an Eagle” and the Monstars Anthem “Hit ‘Em High”.
The Seal clip mixes lip-synching with movie snippets and shots of MJ and others as they shoot hoops. The song’s a decent update of the Steve Miller hit, but the video seems dull. “Hit ‘Em High” uses the same lip-synch/movie segment format, but the song is much more annoying.
Neither an embarrassment nor a treasure, Space Jam occasionally provides some entertaining moments, and it largely maintains the viewer’s interest throughout its brief running time. However, it never grabs the audience’s attention strongly, and it fails to approach to live up to its potential. The 4K UHD presents very good audio along with a smattering of supplements and satisfactory but somewhat compromised visuals. This movie doesn’t really work for me, but the 4K becomes a mostly satisfying presentation, albeit one that could look better.
To rate this film visit the DVD review of SPACE JAM