Fans eager to hear Michael Jordan's inside story of the making of his motion picture debut, the 1996 Loony Tune-fest Space Jam, will have to wait. But for animation aficionados who feel that the classic Warner Bros. characters are the movie's main lures, this new DVD edition will be welcome indeed. Voice actors Billy West II (Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd) and Dee Bradley Baker (Daffy Duck, Tasmanian Devil) provide commentary throughout the movie, sometimes as themselves, and occasionally in character. Director Joe Pytka pops in every so often to make an observation or drop the occasional name (costar Patrick Ewing is evidently much more fun than his press suggests, says Pytka), but it's really West and Baker's show. Among the pair's more fascinating Space Jam revelations is that the very real sounding barks and growls of Jordan's live-action pooch -- a nasty looking bulldog -- actually come from the talented voice of Frank Welker ("the best known dog voice in Hollywood"). The DVD's features also allow you to isolate the musical track, eliminating all the voices save those of the singers. It turns the entire affair into an extended music video that, given the soundtrack's chart-topping popularity several years back, will no doubt appeal to fans of Seal ("Fly Like an Eagle") and R. Kelly ("I Believe I Can Fly").
Many lesser basketball stars have graced the big screen, so it was almost a surprise that it took Michael Jordan this long. But it should be no surprise that Space Jam isn't half the fun of simply watching one of Jordan's highlight reels. For all his choreographed jams in dunk contests, Michael Jordan found his greatest glory during moments of in-game improvisation, when his stunning talent manifested itself as pure instinct. In a semi-animated movie, the necessarily careful staging removes the wonder from Jordan's repertoire, leaving only generic feats of above-average athleticism that have no real-world reference point. Of course, Space Jam is not meant as a highlight reel, rather, an opportunity to promote the persona of Michael Jordan and revive a cast of beloved Warner Brothers cartoons that haven't been dusted off in years. On these scores it's also weak, even with R. Kelly singing "I Believe I Can Fly" as urgently as anyone could want. Trying to insinuate themselves into a sophisticated world of animation that has passed them by, the characters seem like relics, their old-fashioned quips as tired as the hand joints of the animators who draw them. Where Space Jam does find a few laughs is in the cameos of other NBA players, notably Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing, who struggle humorously with methods to recoup their stolen basketball skills. It's while spoofing himself that Jordan is also most effective, including some good-sport jabs at his brief and comical foray into professional baseball.
|Source:||Warner Home Video|