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'Space Jam': Sneaker Preview

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 15, 1996

Sufferin' succotash! That irreverent alpha toon, Bugs Bunny, has been reduced to a sock-sniffing cheerleader in Michael Jordan's ego-tripping "Space Jam." And even though the wacky wabbit shares top billing with His Airness, this overly commercial enterprise is almost as hareless as Jordan's bald head.

The co-stars do interact, but not to the extent that the live actors and toons mixed it up the vastly superior "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." It is no surprise to find the movie's produced by Jordan's agent, David Falk, who uses "Space Jam" to showcase his client, the products Jordan endorses, and the teams with which he is or was associated. The film even includes footage from his college years with the North Carolina Tarheels.

Warner Bros. also puts in its own plug: Daffy Duck is surprised to find the company logo sewn on his feathery fanny. And with plugs and pitches so prominent throughout, it's a wonder that Porky Pig doesn't turn into a pink plush toy or maybe a lunch box before the credits roll.

Inspired by the Nike ads that team the bunny with the ballplayer, the film likewise pits this pair against evil alien hoopsters. Only there's more than overpriced sneakers made in Asian sweatshops at stake here. If their side loses, the Looney Tunes will be forced to become theme-park mascots on the planet Nerdlock.

Known as the Monstars, the aliens have siphoned know-how from NBA players Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues and Shawn Bradley. The heroes, however, have a secret asset in their new teammate, Lola Bunny, a so-called feminist whose ideology is belied by the rhythmic swing of her cottontail.

Lola is gaga for Jordan, but then all the Loonies worship the tower of power. And why not? Everybody wants to be like Mike, including Mike, who is surrounded protectively not only by toons and NBA colleagues, but a supporting cast of actual live actors. They're meant to disguise the star's shortcomings when he isn't shooting hoops or staring bemusedly into the distance. Ever see a totem pole try to act?

Jordan and company are at the mercy of Joe Pytka, who has directed one bad movie and 5,000 TV commercials. Apparently Pytka brings the attention span of the average gnat to the project, which lacks both coherence and cohesiveness. Though Warner Bros. boasts this is their most expensive animated project ever, it's hard to see where all that money went in terms of artistry or technical craftsmanship.

Space Jam is rated PG for cartoon violence.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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