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Every time I see Michael Jordan hawking long distance service along with his "Space Jam buddies," I become more and more convinced that SPACE JAM is a very clever 88-minute commercial. After all, everything in the movie has commercial appeal… including a certain basketball player turned pitchman. With that said, let’s examine the film at hand…

SPACE JAM ($25) is an amusing movie that combines live action with classic animated characters from the Warner Bros. studio. For those who need a refresher course in recent history, SPACE JAM is set during the time that basketball great Michael Jordan left the game (that made him famous) to pursue a career in baseball. The plot of SPACE JAM concerns a group of tiny aliens that come to Earth to capture the Loony Tunes characters and force them to become slaves in an intergalactic theme park (although getting paid royalties to appear at Six Flags parks would be okay). Of course, slick-talking Bugs Bunny convinces the diminutive aliens that they should be allowed to defend themselves- so Bugs comes up with a scheme to allow a game of basketball to decide the fate of all the Loony Tunes characters. Unfortunately for Bugs and the rest of the Loony Tunes gang, those itty-bitty aliens steal the talents of some of the NBA’s best players and grow into a group of basketball playing Monstars. Now facing gigantic foes, the Loony Tunes gang kidnap Michael Jordan and force him out of retirement to save their bacon during that all-important basketball game.

While SPACE JAM gives the Loony Tunes characters plenty of amusing moments, they seem to have lost that edge that they had during their glory days of working with such directors as Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones. As for Michael Jordan’s performance, let me put it to you this way- as an actor, he’s a basketball player. He can carry a 30 or 60-second pitch for long distance service, but don’t expect him to be playing Othello any time soon. Fortunately, Jordan gets first-rate support from the likes of Wayne Knight and the comedy genius known as Bill Murray. The cast of SPACE JAM also includes Theresa Randle, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and the vocal talents of Danny DeVito.

Although this DVD is supposedly a special edition reissue, the folks at Warner Home Video have defied logic and re-released the same full screen presentation of SPACE JAM that they released in the early days of the format. The full screen version of SPACE JAM is noticeably cropped in places, and while small children may not complain, the adults who have to fork over the money are certain to be bothered by this presentation. Perhaps Warner will someday do things right and issue a 16:9 enhanced version of SPACE JAM on DVD. As it stands, the cropped transfer is relatively nice looking, although it is a bit grainy since the image had to be slightly blown up to fill the television screen. Everything appears reasonably sharp and the picture displays a decent level of detail. Fully animated sequences tend to look best in this cropped presentation. Colors are strong; especially during the above mention animated sequences. Blacks are accurately rendered and the image has a good level of shadow detail. Digital compression artifacts never become obtrusive. 

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a very good mix that takes advantage of the discrete nature of the format. Sound effects zip around the entire sound field and are fairly aggressive. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced, and as a nice surprise, it is somewhat directional. The music is very well integrated into the mix and tends to wash over the viewer in a very enveloping fashion. While there aren’t too many places where the bass channel can show off, it does a formidable job of keeping the track from sounding anemic. French and Spanish 5.1 channel soundtracks have also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles. 

Animation and sound jazz up the interactive menus, which offer the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extras. There is a running commentary featuring director Joe Pytka, plus Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, as well as the men who voice them in the movie. The commentary is fun, amusing and covers the technical side rather well. Also on the DVD are three music videos including Seal’s Fly Like An Eagle, R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly and one for the Monstars Anthem. There is an isolated 5.1 channel music track on the DVD, which allows one to appreciate both the orchestral score and the pop songs featured on the soundtrack. Production notes and cast biographies fill out the supplemental section.

SPACE JAM is the DVD that could have been… It could have been great for fans, had Warner issued it with a proper 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentation.





DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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