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'Space' between the ears Review: Air-headed 'Jam,' with ++ Jordan, Bugs & Co., leaves you Looney.


There's no intelligent life out there in "Space Jam." If you get out of the theater and have a little headache, it's because your brain has been deprived of wit for 87 minutes.

There are a few genuine laughs and a few scenes of exceptionally nifty animation in this cartoon-meets-live-action basketball flick, along the lines of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." But there's really no comparison in story, dazzle or -- dare we say it -- acting.

Michael Jordan plays himself, or an idealized version of himself, living an idyllic life with his family in a beautiful house after he quits the NBA and starts striking out a lot in minor-league baseball. His part seems designed to increase the hero worship already surrounding him, but let's put it this way: He's not going to be stealing any Oscars from Denzel Washington.

Theresa Randle ("Girl 6") wastes some time playing his wife. She has maybe five lines, about as many as Lola Bunny, Bugs Bunny's hoops-playing love interest. In the voluptuous cartoon babes department, Warner is definitely keeping up with Disney. She's not bad, she's just drawn that way.

The plot is an elaborately contrived deal in which the head of an alien theme park (voiced by Danny DeVito) wants new entertainment and enlists his tiny alien minions to enslave the Looney Tunes. The Tunes, led by Bugs Bunny, connive to defend themselves with a basketball game, so the aliens steal the powers (and the height) of NBA players, many of whom "act" in this film, including Charles Barkley, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson, etc. The Tunes need help and suck Michael Jordan through a golf hole into their realm, inexplicably located beneath the Earth.

OK, so we know they play a game, and you can probably guess who wins. Meanwhile, the Tunes are woefully short on satire and don't get to do nearly enough of their usual zany shtick. (Daffy Duck -- especially when he kisses his own behind with the Warner Bros. logo on it -- steals the show from Bugs, who is showing his age.)

Better moments come from Bill Murray, who has a brief throwaway role as Jordan's helpful buddy, and Wayne Knight of "Seinfeld" as a pathetic publicist who sticks to Jordan like a Post-it note and is the victim of unimaginative fat jokes.

"Jam" gets two stars for amiability and sporadic humor, with the proviso that it's worth at least three stars for 5-year-olds, who will love it. Just feed them a book immediately afterward to prevent brain damage.

'Space Jam'

Starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny

Directed by Joe Pytka

Released by Warner Bros.

Rated G

Sun score: **

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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