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Joe Pytka
Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, Porky Pig, Tweety, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn
Writing Credits:
Leonardo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod

Get ready to jam.

Jokes fly as the Tunes Squad takes on the Nerdlucks in a hardcourt game to decide if the Looney Tunes remain here ... or become attractions at a far-off galactic offramp called Moron Mountain. The Nerdlucks have a monstrous secret weapon: they've stolen the skills of top NBA stars like Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing and become Monstars. The Tunes Squad's secret weapon just happens to be the finest player in this or any other universe. He's outta this world. So's the fun.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$27.528 million on 2650 screens.
Domestic Gross
$90.443 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/21/2003

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Joe Pytka, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck
• Trailer
Disc Two
• “Jammin’ with Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan” Documentary
• Four Looney Tunes  Shorts
• Two Music Videos
• “Bugs Vs. Daffy: Battle of the Music Video Stars”
• Looney Tunes Game Demo

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Space Jam: 2-Disc Special Edition (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 1, 2003)

When Space Jam hit screens in late 1996, it sounded more like a marketer’s dream than an actual movie. The flick paired Michael Jordan, the world’s most popular athlete fresh off his fourth NBA championship, with Bugs Bunny and a parade of other characters from the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. How could it fail?

Financially, Space Jam failed to fail, but it also failed to even remotely approach expectations. I still recall all the hype that surrounded the film, as the folks at Warner Bros. clearly anticipated a stunning hit. Jam eventually nabbed $90 million at the box office. That figure seemed passable but very ordinary. It ensured that no one could view Jam as a bomb, but no one could regard it as a real hit, either. Given that $90 million only placed it 18th among the year’s top grossing flicks, the take had to be a disappointment.

Did the quality of the flick itself disappoint anyone? Probably, though I can’t imagine many expected much from this melding of animation and live-action footage. Jam opens in 1973 with a quick prologue that shows a 10-year-old Michael (Brandon Hammond) as he practices his shot and tells his dad (Thom Barry) of his aspirations. The movie then offers a quick highlight reel before we arrive upon almost current day to see Jordan’s press conference at which he announces his retirement from basketball and his decision to play baseball.

While we see Jordan’s frustrations as a member of the minor league Birmingham Barons, we also go to an alien planet to visit the Moron Mountain amusement park. Its leader Swackhammer (voiced by Danny De Vito) feels frustrated as he loses customers because of the site’s lack of exciting attractions. He decides he needs something “looney” so he conspires to kidnap the classic Warner Bros. cartoon characters.

The aliens fly to the Looney Tunes realm in the center of the Earth and try to kidnap Bugs Bunny (voiced by Billy West) and the others. They succeed, except Bugs tricks them into agreeing to giving the Tunes a chance to defend themselves. Given the aliens’ small size and slowness, Bugs chooses basketball as the venue.

However, the aliens have tricks of their own up their sleeves. They kidnap the talent of some NBA stars: Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, and Shawn Bradley. When they unleash these powers, the aliens mutate into enormous “monsters” who can easily dominate the Looney Tunes. Bugs then decides to kidnap Jordan to play for their side. Initially he refuses, but when the Monstars mock him, he decides to work for the Looneys. All of this leads to a massive contest that will settle all the questions.

Essentially the prior moments feel like little more than a long build-up for that big game. Obviously, the plot of Space Jam seems minimal and exists just to give us an excuse to get to the film’s major sequence. With all that anticipation, does the battle between the Tunes and the Monstars live up to expectations? Not really, but it seems moderately enjoyable.

That sentiment applies to pretty much all of Jam. To be sure, the movie fails to turn into the disaster I thought it might be. However, it never remotely starts to develop all of the situation’s possibilities.

One can see all of Space Jam encapsulated in Jordan’s performance. As an actor, Jordan fails to stand out from the crowd, but he also makes sure that he doesn’t embarrass himself. It’s mildly amusing to see the film lampoon Jordan’s ill-fated baseball aspirations, and the athlete shows a nice ability to laugh at his own expense, but none of these moments seem terribly clever or inventive. They seem amusing more because we feel surprised to see Jordan allow the filmmakers to mock his attempts to play baseball than because of any real humor created.

Unsurprisingly, the movie’s funniest moments come from Bill Murray’s cameos, especially when he interacts with another guest, Larry Bird. The former Celtic can’t act at all, but he displays a laconic charm that plays off of Murray’s broadness nicely. They’re quite amusing together and provide some nice elements.

Otherwise, much of Space Jam seems enjoyable in a moderate way, but it never really comes to life. It tries to entertain both adults and kids and does quite satisfy either audience terribly well. Some fun moments occur and the concept remains cool, but the total feels like less than the sum of its parts.

Footnote: fans will want to stay through the conclusion of the end credits. Space Jam finishes with a unique version of the traditional “That’s All, Folks!”

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Space Jam appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This disc represented the third DVD incarnation of Space Jam. The initial release came out as one of the very first discs ever produced back in 1997. It presented a fullscreen version of the film and almost no extras. A special edition of Space Jam made it to the shelves in 2000. It included a smattering of supplements but still only gave fans a fullscreen rendition of the movie.

With this third release, Space Jam finally got the widescreen treatment, but it failed to present a stellar image. Much of the picture seemed rather erratic. Sharpness varied much of the time. Many shots looked nicely detailed and distinctive, but more than a few exceptions occurred. Starting with the opening prologue, some scenes came across as oddly ill defined and fuzzy. These instances didn’t dominate the film, but they popped up much more frequently than I’d like.

I noticed no examples of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement also appeared absent during Jam. Print flaws showed up, but not to an extreme. Occasional examples of specks and grit manifested themselves at times. These mostly occurred during effects shots, particularly those that melded live action and animation. A bit more grain than one might anticipate also appeared during the movie.

Given the broad and cartoony palette of Jam, one might expect excellent colors, and that often occurred. Most of the animated sequences looked nicely vivid and vibrant. However, some of the live action shots were a bit dull and muddy, and the combination images also demonstrated some of those problems. Colors mostly looked good, but not all the time. Black levels were fairly dense, though additional exceptions took place, and low-light shots sometimes seemed moderately opaque. The film seemed somewhat poorly lit for dark-skinned actors, and since the movie starred one, that created issues; it was too tough to make out Jordan’s face too much of the time. Ultimately, Space Jam presented some attractive sequences, but given the vintage of the film, the image came as a fairly mediocre one.

More impressive was the Dolby Digital 5.1 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 pretty strongly 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 fairly infrequently.

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 generally satisfying soundtrack.

Most of this two-disc special edition’s extras show up on DVD Two, but the first platter includes a couple of components. In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer - presented anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio – we get an audio commentary from director Joe Pytka plus Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. A holdover from the 2000 single-disc special edition, this track actually 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. 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. That’s not accurate. No, he doesn’t remark frequently, but he shows up regularly and adds some decent information. Among other topics, he 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.

As we go to DVD Two, we start with a documentary called Jammin’ With Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. Created at the time of the film’s theatrical release, he 22 and a half minute show mixes movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear 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 an area called “Adventures”, we find four Looney Tunes shorts. This domain includes “Another Froggy Evening”, “Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers”, “Night of the Living Duck”, and Unfortunately, none of these present cartoons from the classic era. All were created between 1987 and 1998, and none of them seem terribly entertaining; they definitely don’t live up to the heights of the Looney Tunes Golden era.

“Adventures” also presents something called Bugs Vs. Daffy: Battle of the Music Video Stars. This offers a compilation of musical sequences from a slew of old cartoons. It’s worth a look if just to see some really obscure material in this 23-minute and 25-second collection.

Speaking of music videos, we find two directly connected to Space Jam. We get 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.

For DVD-ROM users, you’ll find the usual complement of links plus a game demo related to Looney Tunes: Back In Action. Called “Wooden Nickel Dance-Off”, this requires you to select one of nine dance moves called out by Yosemite Sam. With each successive round, you get less and less time to pick the proper move. Unlike the annoying game attached to the Looney Tunes Premiere Collection, this one’s actually kind of fun, though it takes a very long time to become challenging.

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 remotely approach to live up to its potential. The DVD presents surprisingly mediocre picture quality along with pretty positive audio and a decent set of extras. Fans of Space Jam will like this set, as it presents the best DVD representation of the film to date. For those without an established fondness for the flick, it might make some decent family viewing, but I can’t strongly recommend this fairly lackluster movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.9024 Stars Number of Votes: 41
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