Radar Replay: Escaping into the silly but sweet world of ‘Space Jam’

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Let’s get one thing straight: the live-action and animation mashup film, “Space Jam,” is not the pinnacle of animation, nor the pinnacle of acting or plot. Regardless, it has withstood the test of time since its release in 1996. Despite its flaws, the film has retained its cult standing because of the wholesome message at the center and because of its status as one of the most popular sports movies ever made. 

At a time of so much uncertainty and fear, “Space Jam” is the movie to watch to get relief from the ongoing updates about the pandemic. The slapstick comedy of the “Looney Tunes” characters coupled with the ongoing gag about Michael Jordan’s failed baseball career can get an easy laugh out of the audience. Although the animation is not particularly advanced, it is still entertaining to watch the famous cartoons join the basketball player against the Monstars, a group of aliens whose only mission is to keep their intergalactic theme park alive. This is another appealing draw of the film; it is a total underdog story. The ragtag team of cartoons seemingly have no chance to beat the Monstars, who stole the talent from NBA big shots in order to ensure that the cartoons return with them to their home planet to be enslaved as amusement park drones. It’s not until they believe in themselves — and team up with the man largely regarded as the best basketball player of all time, of course — that they are able to defeat the evil alien force. For a silly cartoon sports movie, it’s a pretty uplifting tale to watch.

If the humor and endearing message wasn’t enough, the film immortalizes one of the biggest moments in basketball history: Michael Jordan’s retirement from professional basketball and his ensuing baseball career. Jordan was at the peak of his basketball career, having just won three championships back to back. The movie earned more than double its budget at the November box office and became the highest-grossing basketball movie of all time. At a time where college basketball tournaments and the entire NBA season is canceled, “Space Jam” is a funny homage to a sport that so many fans love. It’s not the same as watching the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Clippers face each other, but watching the Monstars battle the Looney Tunes on the court is just as satisfying.

There are other reasons that make “Space Jam” worth a rewatch; for example, the film is pure ‘90s nostalgia. Its soundtrack, details and tone easily return the viewer back to a simpler time, where the biggest thing to worry about was whether Jordan could make the winning final shot. At its heart, however, the biggest draw to “Space Jam” is that it is a welcome reprieve from the current overwhelming situation. Movies and televisions shows have always allowed viewers a chance to escape from reality for a few brief hours, and now more than ever, that is badly needed. The funny yet sweet “Space Jam” is no exemption.

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