Here’s the premise for Space Jam, for those not in the know: Basketball superstar Michael Jordan is kidnapped by Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes gang via a golf hole. He is then forced to remain in their underworld to defeat a group of aliens in a game of basketball alongside the squad – of which the fate of planet Earth hinges on the result.
If that premise sounds batshit, then yeah, it totally is. But somehow, it became a cult film for the millennial generation and beyond. Yesterday, the animated-live-action Space Jam celebrated its 20th anniversary and fans worldwide revelled in nostalgia of the cartoon classic, as its legacy continues to grow in time. But how did it get to this point?
It showed Michael Jordan being nice for the first time
At the time, and still, Michael Jordan was considered the finest basketball player of all time. He was also a perceived to be a bit of a bastard. From cussing out fellow players for being ‘midgets’, to his erratic gambling habits and sheer ability to mentally break players, MJ was a known enigma and all-round tough guy. Flashes of his likeable personality were on show for the public to see, but never in extended periods. Space Jam changed that.
For the most part, it helped him fix a lot of bad press about his image, and showcased that actually, he didn’t take himself too seriously.
The film capitalised on the NBA’s prime era
So not only did it feature the best player on the planet, the supporting cast were pretty spectacular too. Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley, nearly all All-Stars in their own rights, were victims of the Monstars talent-stealing caper, and played their parts expertly.
At that point, the NBA was in good place – several transcendent talents in the league and growing viewing figures – and for those who experienced it at the time, Space Jam encapsulated everything that was great about that era; pompous attitudes, talent and straight-up fun.
Bill Murray almost stole the show
It wasn’t just athletes ready to take a role in the film. Comedy actor and rolling internet meme Bill Murray saves the day in the film, nailing shots from all over the court, all while throwing out some welcome zingers. This film alone didn’t make him the cross-generational legend that he is now, but for many, this was the first introduction to the cult of Murray – and boy did he win them over.
It will be hard to replicate
Talks of a sequel with current superstar LeBron James are rife, but conflicting rumours indicate that a new instalment could be on the back burner. For ‘90s kids then, the film’s cartoonish visuals sat nicely in that the era of animation so well, and it’s likely that any updated version would only result in a pale imitation.
The timeless soundtrack
How many film soundtracks now have a dedicated subreddit with over 30,000 subscribers? Very few, probably. But the soundtrack, which included cuts from Seal, R Kelly and D’Angelo, easily leant itself to remix culture,and the whopping title track is no doubt the ultimate pump up song for an entire generation of sports players and beyond.