Making the Grades
If there was a score for technical achievement in my column, Space Jam would score an A+. This is one big byte of work, with computers responsible for more of what you see than a camera lens. (Is it really Michael Jordan or only a reasonable facsimile?) The Looney Tune characters have been updated with a new 3-D look, allowing them to believably mix with (and usually upstage) their live action counterparts.
But just like restaurants with great views usually have bland menus, Space Jam's gimmicks can't cover the black hole inside the script. With a shoestring plot about aliens wanting to capture the Looney Tunes and take them away to be slaves at their amusement park, the novelty of seeing Jordan and Bugs shoot hoops together is the movie's main attraction. Eventually, the looney lot are free thanks to Jordan's skills in an all or nothing basketball game that decides their fate.
The usual cartoon violence has subtly increased, thanks mainly to digital animation techniques that allow characters to get squished and blown away in greater detail. Add Lola Bunny, a sexy new love interest for Bugs ("She's hot!", exclaims Tweety), and the innocence of the Looney Tunes we knew starts to fade. Language is short of pristine with a few minor profanities.
A final caution involves the well produced soundtrack. Not a problem in itself, many groups known for explicit and violent lyrics like R. Kelly, LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, Coolio, and others, have songs in the movie that may lead young people to explore their other works. Parents will want to know that the music in Space Jam is not an example of what these groups usually produce.
I have enjoyed Bugs Bunny and friends for years, and admit that I usually turn a blind eye to the many violent situations played out in the original cartoons. Now in the everything-old-is-new-again nineties, Bugs and his pals may not be playing in the same league they used to.