Revisiting ‘Space Jam’ stomps childhood nostalgia

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, September 7, 2016

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Something happened this weekend that caused me to question all of my childhood memories – I watched “Space Jam.”

I was a child in the ’90s and only 4 years old when the most famous basketball movie of all time hit the big screen in 1996. I don’t remember seeing it in theater. But I definitely recall watching this classic clash of cartoon characters and overpaid athletes on VHS.

I loved it. Ask any other ’90s kid, and I’ll bet they’ll tell you they have only fond memories of the Michael Jordan/Bugs Bunny comedy. It had everything in it kids like – slapstick humor, animation, a famous basketball player we could actually recognize. What’s not to like?

Everything. Everything is not to like.

“Space Jam” is not a classic. I don’t know why the collective children of this era made it one in our heads. I don’t know why I held it in such high regard for so long. It has no redeeming quality.

For one thing, it reminds us all that Michael Jordan (the original Greatest of All Time) tried his hand at playing baseball for a while. No one wants to think about that dark period in the age of sports.

Then, it throws out the most contrived plot – evil aliens steal the talent of five great basketball players and challenge the Looney Tunes gang to a game for their very freedom (dark for kid stuff), leaving the Looney Tunes to kidnap Jordan, who is remarkably cool with the whole thing.

Of course, Jordan can’t act, not even in a ridiculous children’s film, but the other five players (Charles Barkley and Larry Johnson were the only ones I recognized) were somehow so much worse.

But by far the greatest crime this movie commits is forcing Bill Murray to act excited to play in a cartoon basketball game. Set him free!

Yet somehow I watched the whole thing on cable television, too intrigued to turn away. “When did this happen?” I wondered. “When did ‘Space Jam’ become a terrible movie?”

The answer is that it was clearly always terrible, but kids aren’t known for their great taste in movies. Watching it again ruined the perception I’d kept of “Space Jam” for the past 15 years. The shine of kid comedy faded away and left the stench of poor ’90s graphics and terrible acting in its place. It left me oddly sad and yet still very nostalgic.

My younger brother caught me watching about halfway through the movie.

“What is this?” he asked. “Is that ‘Space Jam’? I’ve never seen it.”

And somehow, even though the illusion had long been shattered at this point, I found myself saying “You haven’t seen ‘Space Jam’?! Everyone has seen ‘Space Jam’! It’s a classic!”

Racey Burden is a Messenger reporter with remarkably good movie taste. Don’t hold ‘Space Jam’ against her. She was a kid!

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