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Space Jam is a 1996 Americanmarker live-action/animated film starring Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny (voiced by Billy West) and the rest of the Looney Tunes characters. It was produced by Ivan Reitman, and directed by Joe Pytka (live-action), Tony Cervone, and Bruce W. Smith (animation). The film was released theatrically by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment on November 15, 1996. The film was also converted into a pinball game by Sega and a video game by Acclaim Entertainment. The film plays out as an alternate version of why Michael returned to basketball, this time with him being inspired by Bugs Bunny and others.


The film opens with Michael Jordan as a boy playing basketball outside his home, telling his father that he wants to one day go to college and play in the NBA. Fast-forward twenty years, and Michael Jordan has not only fulfilled his dream of playing college and professional basketball, but has become a bona fide NBA superstar. After winning his third championship with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan announces his retirement from basketball and declares his intention to play baseball. Signed to the minor league Birmingham Barons, Jordan is a major draw for the team, but only a fair to mediocre player.Deep in space, on another planet, five tiny aliens called Nerdlucks (Pound, Bupkus, Nawt, Bang and Blanko) have been sent to Earth to go to Looney Tune Land and capture the Looney Tunes characters and take them back to Moron Mountain, an outer space theme park belonging to their boss, Mr. Swackhammer (voiced by Danny DeVito). The Looney Tunes call a meeting to find a way to escape slavery on Moron Mountain. Bugs Bunny convinces the Nerdlucks that the Looney Tunes must be allowed to defend themselves and, after consulting with his fellow Tunes, challenges the Nerdlucks to a basketball game, cockily expecting a blowout victory in light of the Nerdlucks' small size.

The Nerdlucks then use their strange powers to cheat by stealing the talent of five NBA stars (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, and Shawn Bradley) and transforming themselves into the tall and muscular MonStars, right before the Tunes eyes. Faced with this unsettling new development, the Tunes realize they need help big time and decide to fetch Jordan to coach them.Bugs Bunny snatches Jordan from his recreational golf game with Stan Podolak (Wayne Knight) the Barons' new publisist, and his friends Larry Bird and Bill Murray and bring him to Looney Tune Land. The Tunes try to convince him to take up the position of "player-coach" and train them for their game with the Monstars. Jordan is somewhat reluctant at first, as he wishes to focus on his baseball career. However, when the MonStars show up, and start bullying the Tunes and Jordan himself (including scrunching Jordan into a ball and dribbling him around like one) he changes his mind, to the Tunes delight.

Jordan quickly finds his work is cut out for him, for none of the Looney Tunes knows just how to play basketball, except for newcomer Lola Bunny, to whom Bugs takes an immediate shine. Jordan also finds himself dressed incorrectly for playing basketball, so he dispatches Bugs and Daffy to go to his home in the real world to retrieve his sneakers and lucky shorts. After a close call with Charles, the Jordans' pet bulldog, Bugs and Daffy are able to fetch Jordan's gear with the assistance of the Jordan children. Bugs and Daffy walk to the golf course and return to Looney Tune Land via the same golf hole they pulled Jordan down into. Unknown to them, Stan, who had being digging up the course looking for Jordan, sees them and follows them. He finds Jordan, and convinces him to let him be part of the team.

Meanwhile, in the real world, due to the NBA Stars loss of skills being misinterpreted as an epidimic and with doctors unable to diagnose it or the cause, HAZMAT teams close down NBA arenas all around America for the people's protection. To make things worse, the NBA commissioner calls the current NBA season off.

Back in Looney Tune Land, the game starts disastrously for the TuneSquad, whose numbers are rapidly being whittled down by the injurious play of the MonStars. Come halftime, the Monstars lead by an overwhelming score of 66-18. As the teams go to their respective locker rooms to wait for the next half, Stan sneaks into the MonStar's room, hides in a locker, and while the Monstars meet with Swackhammer, he manages to overhear how they got their powers. However, they discover him thanks to his body odor and rough him up some. He manages to escape to the Looney Tunes locker room and tells them and Jordan what he heard, causing the team to become even more upset, and some of the players to suggest that the team forfeit the game. Jordan tries to fire up the team with a pep talk, but they are unresponsive. Bugs fills a sport bottle with water and pastes a label on it that reads, "Michael's Secret Stuff." Giving Jordan a knowing look, he manages to convince the team that a dose of "Michael's Secret Stuff" will give them the strength and dexterity they need to win. The TuneSquad eagerly gulp down the "Secret Stuff," and in the first part of the second half, they mount a comeback, using crazy strategies and props to baffle the MonStars.

The TuneSquad has rallied to within two points of the Monstars when Swackhammer calls for a time out. He confronts Jordan, who decides to raise the stakes: if the Looney Tunes win, the MonStars have to return the stolen skills to the NBA players they stole them from. If the MonStars win, Swackhammer gets Jordan, along with the Looney Tunes.

As the game resumes, Swackhammer tells the Monstars to "Crush 'em", which they do, literally. Throughout the second part of the second half, they brutally foul and injure almost every player on the TuneSquad, until only Jordan, Bugs, Lola, Daffy and Stan are left standing. Stan is literally flattened by the Monstars, but manages to bring the TuneSquad within one point of the MonStars with 10 seconds remaining. Marvin the Martian, the referee, warns the TuneSquad that if they cannot find a fifth player soon, they will have to forfeit the game. Bill Murray (who made his way to Looney TuneLand with the help from the movie's executive producer)...also Swackhammer yells out " I didn't know Dan Akroid was in this picture" when he suddenly makes the scene to offer assistance, and the game continues.

The TuneSquad manages to steal the ball and pass it to Jordan. He makes a leap to the basket from half-court, but is snagged in mid-air by two Monstars. Exploiting the unique physics of Looney Tune Land, Jordan stretches his arm towards the basket as his body is restrained. Jordan's arm grows almost 16 feet long, and he drops the ball into the basket as the clock runs out. With that, the TuneSquad wins the game and their freedom.

Swackhammer berates the Monstars for losing, and orders them to get in their spaceship to return to Moron Mountain. Jordan asks them why they put up with Swackhammer, and they reply that he's bigger-than they used to be. At that moment, the Monstars finally realize that they are physically bigger than Swackhammer is, turn on him, and shoot him into outer space. Jordan convinces the Monstars to return the stolen skills by touching the games' ball, causing the talent to be absorbed into it, and making the aliens Nerdlucks again. The aliens beg the Looney Tunes to let them stay in Looney Tune Land; Bugs agrees if they can prove that they're "looney enough". Stan, having recovered from his injures, reappears and reminds Jordan of his baseball game. After saying good-bye to the Tunes, the two then borrow the aliens' spaceship to return to the real world just in time for Jordan to join the Barons at their home stadium, to the amazement of Jordan's family and fans.

Jordan and Stan then find his still-talentless NBA friends mopeing around in a gym. Jordan takes the Ultimate Games' ball filled with the superstars' talent and tells them to touch it. They hesistate at first, but eventually do it and recieve their skills back. After showing their newly regained skills off to each other, Jordan's rivals begin to tease him, saying that he doesn't have the skills to play basketball anymore. This motivates Jordan to later return to the NBA, mirroring his real life comeback


Space Jam received mixed reviews. According to Rotten Tomatoes, only 37% of critics, and 46% of their selected "Top Critics", gave the film a positive review. Notable critic Roger Ebert gave Space Jam an enthusiastic "thumbs up," which Gene Siskel also gave the film, although his zeal was more subdued. Leonard Maltin also gave the film a positive review. Some critics compared it unfavorably to Disney's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a popular film in which cartoon characters and live-action humans coexisted. Those who liked the film praised the visual effects, which were groundbreaking at the time. The visual effects particularly revolutionized the way in which movies with a high amount of effects were made and produced.

The soundtrack sold enough albums to be certified as 6x Platinum. It also served as a high point for musical artist R. Kelly, whose song "I Believe I Can Fly" became a hit after it was featured on the film's soundtrack. Other tracks included a cover of "Fly Like an Eagle" (by Seal), "Hit 'Em High " (by B-Real, Busta Rhymes, Coolio, LL Cool J, and Method Man), "Basketball Jones" (by Chris Rock & Barry White), and "For You I Will" (by Monica). The movie's theme song was performed by the Quad City DJ's.

Box office

Despite the mixed reviews, Space Jam was a major box office success. In its opening weekend, it grossed $27,528,529 in the United States. At the end of its running, it grossed $90,418,342 in the United States and $230,418,342 worldwide.

Cast of NBA players

Aside from Jordan, who plays the lead role, Space Jam contains a liberal amount of appearances by NBA players and coaches. Larry Bird plays golf with Jordan, and when the Monstars steal the NBA players' skills, they invade a game between the Phoenix Suns and the New York Knicks, causing the Knicks' Patrick Ewing and the Suns' Charles Barkley to make in-game mistakes. In these scenes, the Knicks' Charles Oakley and Derek Harper and the Suns' A. C. Green, Danny Ainge, and Paul Westphal (coach) are also onscreen.

Later in the film, Ewing and Barkley are joined by the now "gameless" Johnson, Bogues and Bradley. Also, when the Los Angeles Lakers are trying to avoid playing basketball in fear of getting infected, Lakers Vlade Divac, Cedric Ceballos, Anthony Miller, and coach Del Harris make a short cameo. Similar short appearances are also made by NBA players Jeff Malone, Alonzo Mourning, and Sharone Wright and TV commentators Jim Rome and Ahmad Rashad.


Awards and nominations

  • 1997 Annie Awards
    • Winner: Best Individual Achievement: Technical Achievement
    • Nomination: Best Animated Feature
    • Nomination: Best Individual Achievement: Directing in a Feature Production (Bruce W. Smith and Tony Cervone)
    • Nomination: Best Individual Achievement: Producing in a Feature Production (Ron Tippe)



  • Daffy tells Bugs that they should name their basketball team with Jordan "the Ducks". Bugs replies with his potshot at WB rival Disney: "What kind of Mickey Mouse organization would call a team 'The Ducks'?" - a reference to Disney's The Mighty Ducks (who were also a real team known as "The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim"), as well as Wayne Gretzky's comments concerning the New Jersey Devils in the 1980s.
  • One scene references Pulp Fiction, with Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam dressed as men in black as the song "Miserlou" by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones plays in the background.
  • The movie was inspired by Nikemarker commercial which premiered during Super Bowl XXVI featuring Michael and Bugs against Marvin and another alien, and won the 1992 USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter survey. Another shoe commercial is referenced when Larry Johnson says that his grandmother can play better than him (he played his grandmother in an ad for Converse).
  • The character Stan makes this quote: "C'mon, Michael, it's game time. Get your Hanes on, lace up your Nikemarker, grab your Wheaties and your Gatorade, and we'll pick up a Big Mac on the way to the Ball Park", humorizing Jordan's sports product brand endorsement.
  • When Bill Murray arrives at the game near the end of the movie to help Jordan and the Looney Tunes, he is mistaken for Dan Aykroyd by Mr Swackhammer. Shortly after, Daffy asks Murray about how he arrived, to which Murray replies how he's a friend of the producer and was dropped off. Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd both starred in the popular Ghostbusters franchise of the 80s that Ivan Reitman directed.
  • The plot of the movie is used as backstory to the freeware PC game Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden. The basketball in which Barkley and the other players were trapped is used as a plot device, Michael Jordan's past in Space Jam is mentioned several times, as are the Looney Tunes. The Monstars appear in the closing sequence, apparently evil once again.
  • Acclaim also made a video game based on the film
  • The Nerdlucks/Monstars' names are never mentioned throughout the movie, but they are listed in the credits. Several action figures and trading cards also helped people tell which had which name.


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