There are better movies than Space Jam. Lots of them. Hell, there are better movies within the genre of 90s kids’ sports films (The Sandlot, definitely; Little Big League, probably; the first two Mighty Ducks movies, maybe). But that does not change the fact that I love Space Jam like a loyal family pet, and that I will always stop to watch it — picking it up at any point — any time I see it pop up on cable. And so, please allow me to take this opportunity to explain to you why I love it.
You know what? I should do this as a list. People love lists. Especially when you’re talking about something from the 90s. Yeah, let’s do a list.
Five Things I Love About Space Jam
Space Jam is a movie about a group of evil space aliens who want to enslave the Looney Tunes. In order to do so, they agree to a winner-take-all basketball game in the cosmos against Bugs Bunny and company, which, if they win, will result in the beloved characters being forced to entertain the masses at an intergalactic theme park called Moron Mountain. Immediately after agreeing to the deal, the aliens promptly steal the talent from a number of NBA players using a space laser, which the Looney Tunes counter by kidnapping Michael Jordan during a round of golf and begging him to play for them.
If the entirety of the film — if literally all it was — was someone walking onto an empty, unlit stage and reading that paragraph into a cheap microphone, it would still be one of my Top 20 favorite movies of all-time. I mean, think about that. Really, really think about it. Someone made a movie where aliens tried to enslave Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan saved him with basketball. And then think about the fact that none of that is the craziest part of the movie. The craziest part of the movie, by a longshot, is the idea that Michael Jordan and his family live in a development. I’m all for suspension of disbelief in movies, but come on.
Bill Murray Is In Space Jam
We do not make a big enough deal out of this. Bill Murray — comedy great, star of Ghostbusters and Stripes, walking urban legend — was in Space Jam. Murray famously does not have an agent, choosing instead to use an 800 number and voice mailbox as the primary way for people in Hollywood to get in touch with him. This brings up an important question: What in the hell kind of message did producers leave to get Bill Murray to do a space basketball movie starring Michael Jordan? I really hope it was some iteration of that bonkers paragraph in my first point. I like to imagine Murray listening to the message and repeating the key parts (“Uh huh, Michael Jordan … right, aliens … to emancipate cartoons … okay …”), and then calling the producers back and saying “Yeah, it’s Bill. I’ll do the space thing.” I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he’s a lifelong Chicago sports fan and the film gave him a chance to work with the Bulls legend, but still … Bill Murray is in Space Jam.
The Monstars’ Haphazardly Assembled Basketball Team
I give the Monstars (and the producers of the film) all the credit in the world for picking Muggsy Bogues and Shawn Bradley as members of the team, for comedy purposes if nothing else, because it meant we got to see the 5’3″ Bogues standing next to the 7’5″ Bradley, and that’s just a great visual. But from a basketball perspective, the team — which also featured Charles Barkley, Larry “Grandmama” Johnson, and Patrick Ewing — left a lot to be desired.
The primary problem with the Monstars team is that it had too many redundant parts. Other than Bogues at point guard, the team was made up of centers (Ewing, Bradley) and stretch power forwards (Barkley, Johnson). Sure, this meant that they were able to dominate the paint and corral just about every rebound that clanged off the rim, but it also meant (a) they had no consistent outside shooting, and (b) they had no one who could even hope to check Michael Jordan in a game situation. (Yes, I know they assembled their team before Jordan joined the Tune Squad, but they still should have accounted for the possibility that one of the Looney Tunes could be a solid two-guard capable of bringing one of those bigs away from the basket.) This is especially unacceptable when you realize they had their pick of any player in the league for each position, because evil aliens with space lasers do not have to worry about trivial things like salary caps and free will.
Here is what I am getting at: The Monstars should have considered dropping Johnson and Ewing (Bogues and Bradley stay, because, again, hilarious) and replacing them with, like, Scottie Pippen and Mitch Richmond. Also, I have put entirely too much thought into the roster of a cartoon alien basketball team.
I am going to temporarily overlook the fact that there is one (1) female character of note in this whole movie and that she is an animated rabbit who has been sexualized to a degree that is uncomfortable on a number of levels in hindsight (especially given the crushes a nation of boys had on her in the late-90s), because I would also like to point out that there are not nearly enough movies where girl bunnies are hecka awesome at basketball.
And finally, of course, the soundtrack. Everyone always points this one out when they talk about Space Jam, so I’ll be brief and limit myself to two short points before shutting this post down: 1) The song “Buggin,'” which is rapped by Bugs Bunny, was written by Jay-Z, and that is one of the more enjoyable facts to toss out at a dinner party (provided people at your dinner party care about rap music and cartoons, which, if they don’t, means you probably need new friends); and 2) No less than 70% of all basketball highlight videos should be set to the song “Hit ‘Em High.” I mean that. Play me out, fellas.