I looked for a lot of movies this week, including Lady and the Tramp, Brave Little Toaster, and Fox and the Hound (because sometimes I like to cry, shut up). But I don’t like downloading movies, and all the copies of all of these movies were already checked out at both my local Family Videos. That’s right, I have two local Family Videos, and people are probably ready to make fun of that. But I went to both tonight, and multiple copies of multiple Disney movies were gone. So clearly somebody is going there. Instead of looking at this as a failure though, I choose to look at it as a sign that it was time.
Once a generation, a perfect movie comes along. A movie by which all other movies must be compared to. My grandparents had Citizen Kane. My parents had Pulp Fiction. And my generation? We have Space Jam. That’s right, it’s the Space Jam blog.
This is a perfect movie. When talking about Sky High, I said that on a five star scale, every movie that isn’t Space Jam automatically gets half a star taken away. This movie has everything you could possibly want. There’s drama, love, action, suspense, humor. I’m not sure why I felt the need to list those, since I feel like they were already included in the “everything” I already said this movie has. But I did it, so let’s move on. I’ve been drinking for hours, so it’s weird how nitpicky you’re being right now.
First off, I would like to address an almost criminal injustice. We live in a world where the National Film Registry exists. This list holds movies that are judged to be of “artistically, historically, or aesthetically significant.” This list has movies including The Terminator, Shawshank Redemption, and Top Gun. It is inarguable that these movies deserve accolades. However, also on this list are Pinocchio, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Space Jam is not on this list, and that is, for lack of a better word, bullshit. But I don’t want to explain how good Space Jam is in comparison to lesser movies, instead I’ll just explain why it is “artistically, historically, AND aesthetically significant.”
First off, “historically.” This is the top grossing basketball movie of all time. Not Hoosiers, not Air Bud, not even Love and Basketball, which was an amazing movie. But it’s not just basketball. Space Jam is the number 3 top grossing sports movie of all time. In addition, Space Jam attempts to identify a more honorable reason for Michael Jordan to return to the NBA. This is a man who leaves professional basketball at the height of his fame and career to play baseball, his father’s favorite sport. In the real world, Jordan’s stated reasons for returning were based on the baseball strike, and his desire to avoid being a replacement player (or “scab,” if you want to be realistic). I support that decision, since the only replacement athlete I like is Keanu Reeves when he’s replacing Martel and is coached by Gene Hackman. For the record, I have no idea who the actor that played Martel is, or I’d have used his real name.
So Michael allegedly left baseball for incredibly noble reasons. In reality, he was an average at best baseball player formerly considered the best basketball player of all time. In addition to being considered the GOAT (I’ve been waiting for a chance to use that organically), it was also well known how competetive Michael Jordan is. So it was no surprise that someone used to being the best wouldn’t want to stay long in a sport he wasn’t particularly remarkable at. Furthermore, there were fairly credible allegations that Jordan, a known gambler, was playing baseball to keep busy during a suspension the NBA was trying to keep quiet. His return to the NBA allegedly signified the end of the suspension. Space Jam even gave a nod to Jordan’s gambling habits by having him engage in a side bet with Swackhammer, leader of the Monstars. It’s a realistic suspicion.
Even if Michael came back to basketball purely so he wouldn’t be a scab, that is still a reason rooted in negativity. Space Jam attempts to give us a positive spin on why Michael returned to basketball. It wasn’t because a strike, and it wasn’t because he didn’t enjoy being very good (although the movie does address how much he hated struggling). It wasn’t even because of a gambling suspension. Michael Jordan came back to playing basketball because it was his true calling, it was who he is, and the Looney Tunes taught him that. Historically, that is much better than gambling or just because he was terrible.
Cultural significance can be hard to measure, but I think I’ve got that one down. There is a lot going on in Space Jam that remains relevant. Sure, the movie came out nearly 21 years ago, but that doesn’t change that this movie holds up. Strap in kids, if you thought the part about gambling got real, you aren’t gonna believe what’s coming next.
First things first, this movie has an amazingly diverse cast. In addition to a black lead (human) actor, there are also a variety of people of color in the supporting (human) cast. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many female characters, but in addition to Granny, Space Jam introduces us to Lola, a badass female both incredibly skilled at basketball, and more comfortable than I was with her sexuality. We also can’t forget Tweety Bird, whose gender is fluid enough that even when directly asked on camera by Sylvester during the episode “Ridiculous Journey,” Tweety only whispers in his ear. Sylvester, for the record, replies “huh. I was wrong.”
Regarding cultural significance, you also can’t ignore the lesson Space Jam provides that it’s important to believe in yourself. At halftime, Bugs and Michael give the Looney Tunes a dose of “Michael’s Secret Stuff” to improve their performance. The Tunes step their game up, not realizing that the “Secret Stuff” is just water and the only reason they’re doing better is because they’ve found some confidence. Space Jam teaches us that all we have to do is believe in ourselves and we can achieve anything. Fear only holds us back, and being afraid of the Monstars let them push the Looney Tunes around. Believing in themselves allowed the Tunes to tap into their own hidden talents and lower the Monstar’s lead to within single digits. The message of Space Jam is that if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish remarkable things.
The next instance of cultural significance is the presence of A-list comedians. Wayne Knight is a comedy heavyweight. His resume is a laundry list of memorable supporting characters from major shows and movies. He was Newman on Seinfeld, Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park, and Al the Toy Collector in Toy Story 2. He shines as Stan Podelack in Space Jam. Without Stan, Michael Jordan never would have figured out that the Monstars stole the talent from NBA players. Also, Stan scored the basket that took the Tune Squad to a one point game. So Stan was an essential character played by a fantastic supporting comedic actor. Then of course, we have Bill Murray. If you need me to explain how great Bill Murray is, there’s no helping you.
Part three of cultural significance? That soundtrack. Damn.
As far as the aesthetic significance, first I offer you the dictionary definition of “aesthetic:” concerned with beauty, or the appreciation of beauty. This whole movie is beautiful. From the blend of animation and live action, the blend of adult and kid-friendly humor, and again, that soundtrack, this movie is steeped in beauty. This is obviously the weakest of the three paragraphs, and if I was writing a college essay (or high school, let’s be honest) I would probably have put it first in order to establish a build up. But this is a pop culture blog hosted on a free site, and I can do what I want, including inflate my word count right now. But aesthetic significance was always going to be a short paragraph, because beauty is a very difficult metric to measure. But even with such a difficult metric, may I again point you in the direction of that soundtrack?
If you want to submit this blog to the National Film Registry as the first step of inducting Space Jam, I think that would be a good idea. I don’t know the steps to inducting movies into the National Film Registry, but I assume they need to be nominated by someone. I would like to take this moment to formally nominate Space Jam for membership in the National Film Registry. Someone get this to whoever is in charge of these things! That’s all for now, love and kisses!
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