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