Movie Review - 'Space Jam'
Space Jam Dazzle of 'Space Jam'
can't hide its
lame story

BY MARGARET A. McGURK
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Space Jam scores most of its points with technical wizardry and the charm of its co-stars. Michael Jordan, the nation's sports idol, and Bugs Bunny, the nation's inner rascal, are reliably adorable just being themselves.

The special effects in Space Jam are as cool as advertised. The movie's ambitious combinations of live action, animated drawings and computer-generated imagery yield no end of gee-whiz visual impressions.

Review Unfortunately, the moviemakers apparently missed the key lesson of such predecessors as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Toy Story: Technical spectacle amounts do nothing without a good story.

The movie's production credits list four writers, reinforcing the theory that the more writers a movie uses, the weaker the story is likely to be - and Space Jam spins a frail yarn indeed.

An outer-space mogul (voice of Danny DeVito) plans to kidnap Looney Tunes characters for entertainment slaves at his cheesy amusement park. Bugs talks the space invaders into staking their scheme on a basketball game.

The space critters steal talent from Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and other pro players and morph into hoop-stuffing monsters. Bugs recruits Michael Jordan to help win the game.

The movie can't crack enough jokes to camouflage the fact that the plot is as ridiculous as it sounds, even for a cartoon - no matter how good it looks, as shot by legendary cinematographer Michael Chapman (Raging Bull, The Fugitive).

For example, the movie includes a technically marvelous scene when Bugs and Daffy Duck sneak into the Jordan home to collect the superstar's basketball gear and are glimpsed by his children. It looks like a million bucks, but it adds nothing, not even laughs, to the story.

That's not to say there is no funny stuff in this movie. The talent-deprived NBA players have some nice slapstick moments. The new Lola Bunny (''Don't call me doll!'') isn't on screen nearly long enough, and the script gives the characters some funny inside-Hollywood jokes (''What kind of Mickey Mouse outfit would call its team the Ducks?'').

The movie also boasts a winning soundtrack that mixes rap, ballads and rock, and even revives the classic ''Basketball Jones.''

Space Jam is worth a spin, but unlike its human hoops star (and despite what its relentless publicity machine wants you to believe), it's a far cry from the best of all time.


IF YOU GO:
Space Jam
2 1/2 stars
(PG; cartoon violence) Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Bill Murray. 87 minutes. At National Amusements and Showplace 8.