November 17, 1996 -- "Space Jam" is a serious attempt by Warner Brothers to challenge the Disney empire on its own ground, the feature-length cartoon and it's also the movie debut of Michael Jordan.
It's a good effort, but not up to the level of the best Disney cartoon features, but Michael Jordan does just fine playing himself. This film is more along the lines of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"
The story has to do with the operator of an amusement park on another world who orders the kidnapping of some cartoon characters in order to make his park more attractive to kids. The group he sends to get the cartoons is tricked into playing a basketball game for all the marbles.
In an attempt to win the game, the kidnappers steal the basketball talent from NBA players Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Mugsy Bogues, Larry Johnson and former BYU player Shawn Bradley.
When the kidnappers suddenly become much larger and more talented, Bugs and crew go looking for some help from Michael Jordan, who at that time was retired from basketball and was playing baseball.
Jordan is surprisingly good as an actor. He comes across as basically a nice guy, but who is a real competitor on the court. He is also a good sport. He goes along with some gags about his lack of talent on the baseball diamond. Some superstars wouldn't put up with that.
Jordan serves at the anchor for a story that is unfocused and meandering at times. It's basically a 15-minute plot stretched out to about an hour and a half. He does a good job of keeping the basic story in focus. The quality of the animation varies from mediocre to good. At its best, the cartoon characters look three-dimensional. At worst, they're like average Saturday morning TV cartoons.
There are some good inside jokes in the film, including a spoof of "Pulp Fiction" a reference to "Caddyshack" and a dig at the Disney-owned "Mighty Ducks" hockey team, but there's not quite enough here for adults. It's more of a kids film. For adults, it rates a C. For kids, it is solid entertainment, a B.
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