Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Celebrating/Reviewing Space Jam!

So 20 years since Space Jam entered our lives, eh? I still have a hard time believing that. Maybe I'm just in serious, serious denial. I feel I'm like others in thinking the 90s was just 6 or 7 years ago. That's the fun of getting old, kids.

Now I could sit here all day and say how lame Space Jam is but I can't. In fact, I have fond memories of this movie. Oh sure, it doesn't hold up 100% to some of us adults but it's a nice nostalgia trip. Then again, I'm the guy who rants and raves about how much he loves The Wizard, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

In fall 1996, my world revolved around three things: Wrestling, comics and Space Jam. I was a huge fan of Michael Jordan(but who wasn't?) and loved anything Warner Brothers offered, so was I gonna turn down a movie that involved The King of Air and Bugs Bunny playing basketball in space? Of course not! I was sold the second I saw the poster! I became obsessed with finding out everything I could with those two words. I had every piece of promotional offering from McDonalds, a Sports Illustrated special, and even a sweet Space Jam shirt I wore everywhere. Check it out:

With authentic 1996 angst and denim.
My buddy Ryan and I were all hyped, prepared and ready for this movie on opening night. It's not easy for a 13 year old to get super excited for a movie aimed at 7 year olds but if there was ever a reasonable exception, it's this. I mean, by that point, I was in middle school. Even expressing love in  Disney movies was social suicide. But, I feel like due to Michael Jordan's involvement, everyone was given a pass. Just. This. Once.

And you know what? The hype paid off. The movie was entertaining. It was a pretty decent hit for WB and the audience. Anyone who came out immediately fell in love with the movie. Or maybe older audiences who moved on from cartoons came running back. In fact, as my friend Ryan walked out, at least according to Ryan, I apparently proclaimed "RYAN WE ARE NOW JAMMERS". I will go to my grave saying that it was Ryan saying that. But either way, we were very happy. And so were you. Admit it! In fact, at a box office of $230 million, I'm sure WB was happy too. In the long run, Bugs Bunny and the gang were also thrown back into the limelight after playing a second place to Disney. This helped make WB characters popular again, which was a great benefit as well.




Today, WB celebrated this cherished classic with a sweet bluray/dvd/digital copy SteelBook combo pack. I gladly jumped at the chance to check it out! That said, it's now been a good 19 years since I've seen it last. So when I received the bluray for review, I was kinda scared. Sometimes, your favorite childhood movies don't hold up. We've all seen this happen. We wanna revisit our childhood and our childhood slaps us and says "lol".

Sadly, that fear was...somewhat proven. I think it's more of the silliness of the story itself. And the acting is a little stiff, but Jordan wasn't known as an actor. He was an athlete. Thankfully, he was surrounded by comedic greats like Bill Murray and Wayne Knight who kept him grounded. Was MJ gonna win an Oscar? No, but he tried his hardest and I'm gonna give an A for effort.

Now, I'd lie if I said I was blown away just as much now as I was at age 13 but there were things that stood out. Let's check them out:

The Animation:

screencap credit: HighDef Digest

For a live action/animated hybrid movie released in 1996, the animation really looks crisp and perfect. There's not a lot of flaws in this, mainly due to the mixture of CGI and cell-based animation. In fact, if I was to point to an example of great 90s animation, I'd say this is one of the finer productions. The transfer on this

The Music: 






R. Kelly, Quad City DJ's, Coolio, Seal, even Jay-Z. One of the finest R&B soundtracks of the decade.  To this day, while working at summer camps and schools, I've heard kids sing "I Believe I Can Fly" as they play basketball. I'd say that's a pretty testament to the longevity of this movie and soundtrack.


Cameos:



Patrick Ewing, Buggsy Mogues, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, are just some of the other basketball legends that join Michael in this movie. It's virtually a who's-who of basketball at that time to help the king get his ducks in a row to defeat the intergalactic MonStars. Or...Daffy Ducks in a row...


Voice Acting Cast:


Billy West, Bob Bergen, Danny DeVito, Dee Bradley Baker, Frank Welker, Maurice LeMarche, June Foray and Bill Farmer are just some of the names that round out this cast. A virtual Hall of Fame of animation voice actors. It's no easy task to fill Mel Blanc's shoes, but I'd say Billy West did a decent enough job. Warner Brothers definitely casted the best of the best and gave them some pretty good material to work with.



So, while I can't say some of the movie holds up the best, in my opinion, there are elements of it worth watching and picking up. Especially since 90s kids are getting older and starting to have families. This will be a perfect movie to hand down to the next generation. I can definitely see this being a new tradition and a bonding film between kids and parents.


So I highly recommend picking this up. But, before you do that, check out this archived Space Jam site to see what internet was like back in 1996. I'm just glad we got out alive.


-Chad

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