SPACE JAM [The Woeful Worship]: Ehhhhh, What’s Crappy, Doc?
Greetings, fellow geeks and geekettes. My goodness, it’s been a while. Hell, when last we perused these waters, our country wasn’t on fire, but here we are, the end of summer, and looking to get started with awards season. But there aren’t any awards where we’re going…Anyway, I’d had a certain movie planned to cover for this outing of Woeful Worships, but after a series of mishaps and tragedies, I’ve decided to change course and cover something a bit…nostalgic. Oh, don’t get me wrong: I’ll be covering my original choice, but for now, we’ll just hold off a bit. Because I know what sells: NOSTALGIA. And do you guys know what’s REALLY nostalgic? Fucking Space Jam.
I know, I know. I can almost feel the oncoming onslaught: “This movie’s fantastic! I’ll burn your house down for saying that!”; “This movie LITERALLY is my childhood and a documentary as to how I escaped the cartoon realm!”; “Go to hell, J.L., you sexy son-of-a-bitch! This movie got me knee-deep in poon when I was in middle school, and you can’t tell me otherwise!”; “FAKE NEWS!”; “You’re a film reviewer! You’re supposed to be objective!”; “LOL, beta cuck iz butthurt! LOL!” Or — my favorite response — “TL;DR.” But look…rewatch it. REALLY watch it again, outside of the trappings of nostalgia, and answer me this: why is this movie?
You guys know this plot, it’s the classic “waning-in-popularity-Warner -Bros.-cartoon-characters-get-
So the Looney Toons are out doing their own thing, which consists of just running through their signature scenarios (Wile E. Coyote chases the Roadrunner ad infinitum; Taz spins around spouting inane gibberish that could be hidden profanity; Daffy is out being the coolest motherfucker around; and Bugs Bunny is out being an insufferable asshole to a justifiably enraged, psychotic Elmer Fudd). But alas! This peace is not to last, as the CEO of amusement park Moron Mountain (which is a planet, not just a mountain?) needs a new gimmick to attract visitors. He chooses to kidnap the Looney Tunes, as they’re the first thing he happens to see on TV, and appoints five of the tiniest, weakest, most feeble alien cohorts to kidnap ALL of them.
Seeing how dimwitted and short these jerks are, the Looney Toons challenge them to a basketball game for their freedom (instead of just, like, stepping on them or flicking them away, or having Wile E. just dynamite them). While the Toons think they’ve got this, the Tiny Aliens steal the basketball skills of some of the best, Not-An-Actor-est basketball players working at the time, rendering them apparently useless at doing literally anything else with their lives. The Toons are totally fucked, guys! OH NO!
With this dramatic turn of events the Toons enlist the help of none other than Michael “I’m Definitely Not An Actor” Jordan, at the peak of his fame! Or, to be fair, they fucking kidnap him. There he is, out hanging out with Bill Murray, and Newman, playing golf, when they wrap a rope around him, drag him underground (where their universe exists?), and beg him for help. And really, what choice does he have? He now exists in a reality that goes beyond human reason, where logic and the very concept of death mean nothing, and where he has no idea how to leave (it’s apparently by breaking through the sky? Which is also underneath the Earth? Who came up with that? John Quincy Adams?).
And the pisser of it is that he has his kids on Human Earth who just wake up and their father is fucking GONE. And it goes to reason that they’ve seen some shit in their lives, because when Bugs and Daffy show up to their house in the dead of night saying they have their dad and he’s “helping” them, but they need his sneakers, they have the mildest of reactions. Those children don’t care. They’re seen much, much worse mind-blowing shit through their thousand-yard-stare-eyes. The presence of an anthropomorphic rabbit, and duck robbing them fazes them not. They’ve stared into the abyss, had the abyss stare upon them, and then it screamed in abject terror.
But back to the highjinks! The Toons practice, the Not-Tiny-Anymore Aliens (cleverly and originally calling themselves the Monstars) show off their skills, and the game is on! Also, Lola Bunny shows up, and she makes me feel weird.Who was she before she showed up in this movie? She’s not an older character they dug up. And the animators anthropomorphized the HELL out of her. Is her shtick just that she’s good at basketball and being the perfect candidate for Rule 34? Anyway…Newman shows up to help (Ha!), the Toons get their self-confidence after trailing in the first half of the game (and Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam both actually use their guns on the Monstars…for a single visual pun), and then Bill Murray himself shows up (and his presence is the one truly great thing about this movie.) The game’s down to the wire, the Toons are behind by ONE POINT and the buzzer’s about to go off! Oh SHIT! WHAT WILL HAPPEN??!!!
“I Believe I Can Fly”. That’s what happens.
Jordan gains honest-to-God Mr. Fantastic abilities, and dunks that shit. Never mind he never exhibited any true stretching capabilities at all before, and never does anything close to this ability ever again, in or out of the movie, but he’s in a movie with fucking cartoons, so I’ll roll with it. It’s just such an odd moment, where the tone just…gets super-serious and gospel-y? One minute we’re watching Bugs and Michael Jordan playing ball, and the next R. Kelly chimes in with a gospel choir crooning an inspirational ballad in the most heartfelt, serious way, which is playing over the image of a grown man stretching his arm across the entire length of a basketball court while cartoon aliens try to drag him down to the ground.
Most of us grew up in the ’90’s, and I can tell you that this sort of misplaced seriousness was all over the pop culture of the time. It’s almost wistful to think that there was a time before meta-seriousness, where films and comics didn’t stop to cynically point out that their very existence was stupid and made no sense (Age of Ultron stops an action scene to do this; the rebooted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles do this; fucking Terminator Genisys does this!)
A movie like this…stupid as it is…reveled in its stupidity and just, like, rolls with it. And for that alone, I kind of appreciate it. It never once stops to look at the audience, wink, and say, “I am fucking stupid. I am sorry I was made, and that you are currently wasting your time watching me be super stupid, and now you too are also stupid because of me, and me alone.”
Space Jam is such a product of its time it arrived wanting to trade Pogs, beat an old woman for a Furby, and peep those fresh Jnco threads, yet is quick enough to get you, dear audience member, back home before your Tamagatchi died. If you know what anything in that previous sentence was, then Surprise! You watched Space Jam, were obsessed about it, and wanted all your friends to join in the fun. But you were young then…oh so young. And this movie? Space Jam? It has not held up well, and, like most things being sold back to us, isn’t as awesome as we tried convincing ourselves it was once. Except for Bill Murray. Yeah…that dude never goes out of style.
Next time, we’re entering a sub-genre of the Woeful Worships: the shitty Lifetime movies (aka “regular Lifetime movies”). Because…jeez…these are some strange motherfuckers coming up…
Until next time, feel free to visit the OFFICIAL SUPER AWESOME SPACE JAM WEBSITE right here!