The Test of Time: ‘Space Jam’

Space Jam

Space Jam is, by most accounts, a classic. It made $230 million at the box office against a budget of $80 million (a ton for 1996). It starred beloved actors from multiple generations – Bill Murray, Wayne Knight, and the Looney Tunes. It was popular enough that it still gets played on random Saturday afternoons on cable (in this case, VH1, right after White Men Can’t Jump, which is the best basketball movie of all time, and right before Boyz n the Hood, which has almost nothing in common with Space Jam).

Michael Jordan was a super duper megastar in the mid-90s. Space Jam came out after he was back in the NBA and had won the 1996 title with the Bulls, arguably the height of his NBA power, although anywhere in the next few years would also be near his height.

But none of these things address the important question that TToT asks: Does this movie stand the test of time?

Let’s discuss.

Hoo boy. There’s a lot to unpack here.

  • First, the opening scene where “I Believe I Can Fly” blankets our ears while little kid MJ plays in his driveway is still awesome. The father/son dynamic is not convincing, but R. Kelly makes good music. He’s a disgusting person, but he makes good music.


  • Moron Mountain? Why that name? I’m willing to suspend my disbelief far enough to accept that aliens live on another planet and speak English. I’m not able to accept that they speak English but name their amusement park – which the boss CLEARLY wants to succeed and make money, considering that’s what sparks the entire plot of the movie – Moron Mountain. It ain’t right.


  • It’s abundantly clear that some players were not willing to film in the summer that this movie was filmed. The Monstars managed to grab exactly one player from the three All-NBA teams of 1996, and that was Charles Barkley. By getting Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Shawn Bradley (lol), they admitted they couldn’t get Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Reggie Miller, Shaq, John Stockton, Hakeem Olajuwon, Jason Kidd, or anyone from the Chicago Bulls. Also, did I mention Shawn Bradley and then laugh? I meant to. I should do that again later.


  • Michael Jordan isn’t the worst actor I’ve ever seen. That’s kind of impressive. I expected a rewatch of this movie to be cringe-worthy every time he tried to be convincing, but it wasn’t that bad. He did what he was asked to do, and he could’ve been much worse. Kudos to him. He emotes on rare occasion!


  • The budget of this movie had to be tied up in the fact that it doesn’t look notably worse when the toons and humans interact than it does in modern movies. Good for them. That’s back-to-back compliments I’ve given this movie.


  • Bill Murray, Stan (Wayne Knight), and Larry Bird are not nearly concerned enough about their friend being pulled down a hole into nothingness. It’s almost as if Bill Murray made a career out of not really reacting and Larry Bird is not an actor.


  • There’s a pantsing scene in the big game. Did that Monstar guy have a huge dick that half the arena saw? He must have, right? He’s a 15-foot-tall bipedal animal with almost entirely human qualities. He had a penis. He’s super embarrassed about getting his pants yanked down and he picks them back up right quick, but that’s gotta be pretty jarring for thousands of fans to see an enormous alien donger.


  • One of the Monstars breathes fire in the basketball game. I’m not sure about that. The Nerdlucks couldn’t do that and the NBA players couldn’t do that, so why could the one guy do it during the game? I’m starting to second guess the logic of this movie.


  • Do you think they put fake sweat on MJ during the filming of the game scenes or did he just play pretty hard during the filming and they caught him sweating? I can’t decide which one is more likely or interesting.


  • There’s a Tumblr page that hasn’t been updated in a long time called “What the f*** is Mike wearing?” It’s exactly what it sounds like – it’s a collection of photos of Michael Jordan dressing poorly. Most of the photos are from the year 2005 or later. In Space Jam there are a couple of scenes where you can’t help but notice that MJ is wearing slacks with the belt line only a few inches beneath his nipples. For someone who helped change the style of athletes around the world, he sure dresses like a weirdo.


  • Hang on, MJ changes the bet toward the end of the game, saying that he’ll go to Moron Mountain if the Tune Squad loses. Suddenly the Monstars, who beat the hell out of the toons in the first half but stopped after halftime, begin again to literally beat the hell out of the toons. Why didn’t they do that between halftime and this timeout? Is Mr. Swackhammer a bad coach? Is he actually Byron Scott? Additionally, they never laid a hand on Jordan before the final dunk, but when Stan checked into the game they straight-up pancaked him like the dude at the end of Roger Rabbit. I don’t understand this world. It’s loony.


  • Oh come on. Mike’s strategy on the final play is “somebody steal the ball and get it to me.” I do not approve.


  • Also, the way time works on the final play is bananas: Everything is moving at real speed but the clock is ticking every 3-4 seconds, but then MJ is moving in slow motion for the final several seconds while the clock continues to move at regular speed.


  • Jordan asks the Monstars to give his “friends” their talent back. There is no way Shawn Bradley is or was one of his friends.


  • Cue the R. Kelly for the ending, too. That’s very Broadway-esque. Not sure where Jordan got his Birmingham Barons jersey for when he got off the spaceship, but whatever.


  • Okay, last thing, and it’s a biggie: how long is the time frame of this movie? I think it’s one day, because Juanita doesn’t really notice that Mike is gone. However, in that one day, every NBA team played enough for the league to cancel games, all the players got to visit their therapists (the same guy, which is odd because the players were on five different teams from five different cities, although Barkley and Larry Johnson were playing against each other), all the players who lost their talent managed to end up in the same city (Birmingham?), in the same gym, and seemingly a ton of other things happened. But Jordan didn’t miss a game with the Barons, did he? If he did, his wife didn’t notice or care, she was just surprised that he wasn’t there at the beginning of the game. To her, he was gone all day. Also, where the hell do they live? Like, that’s clearly the Jordan family house, but he’s playing baseball for the Birmingham Barons after being on the Chicago Bulls for about ten years. Wherever they live, it was within driving distance of the Barons stadium. My God.

Here’s the craziest thing about the whole movie: It’s still fairly enjoyable to watch. I didn’t hate this, even after watching White Men Can’t Jump immediately beforehand (it was a pretty busy day). Space Jam is over-the-moon insane. There are about a million things that don’t add up and make you think “Well, this is nonsense,” and yet, it’s fine.

Space Jam, against all odds, stands The Test of Time.



Kevin Nye

Author: Kevin Nye

Kevin Nye grew up near Cleveland, was educated at Ohio University and was re-educated by living in Chicago and doing improv and sketch comedy. He is a triple threat of mediocrity.

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