New Films: Space Jam

Director: Joe Pytka. Starring: Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle, Bill Murray (U)

Ryan Gilbey
Saturday 22 March 1997 00:02 GMT

There are some blatant and spiteful swipes at Walt Disney in the children's comedy Space Jam - at one point, Bugs Bunny stomps around berating "Mickey Mouse organisations", while the movie's villains are a gang of extra-terrestrial sycophants who want to kidnap Warner Bros cartoon characters to liven up their - get this - theme park.

Such bitterness is a bit rich considering that the movie is basically a feature-length remake of the football sequence from Disney's own Bedknobs and Broomsticks, spruced up with some computer-generated effects and a soundtrack that's uglier than a motorway pile-up. Whereas the Disney film had an eccentric English witch interacting with her animated co-stars, Space Jam offers us the NBA hero Michael Jordan playing basketball with cartoon characters. And it has to be said - he's no Angela Lansbury.

David Falk maintains that Jordan "has the ability to become a major entertainment personality". But then he would say that. He's Jordan's business manager. And Space Jam is nothing if not a product made by men who gauge a film's success by how many soft toys it spawns. When it tries to be hip about the business of spin-offs, it merely sounds vulgar. One scene has Daffy Duck griping about not getting royalties for all the T-shirts and lunchboxes which feature his image, a joke which could only have worked if merchandising potential were an incidental part of the movie rather than its defining characteristic.

By the closing minutes, even the nonsensical laws of cartoon logic to which the film has adhered have been contravened, so that a human character can explain away his presence in Looney Tune land simply by announcing "The producer's a friend of mine".

Luckily, that character is played by Bill Murray, the seedy, ungainly, pock-marked comedian who can get away with anything, even having Space Jam on his CV.

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