Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Gene Siskel's Review of Space Jam

(Chicago Tribune, 1996) Siskel was a Bulls fan and, as did we all, loved Michael Jordan. But dude REALLY loved Michael Jordan, noting that the "great looking" cinema newbie's "eyes sparkle." He praises MJ's delivery and sharp dialogue, insults Shaq's movies (with the zinger "Bulls 1, Lakers 0," which is not a basketball score). And gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars. OK, I agree with that rating. Here are some examples of Michael's sharp dialogue, plus the complete review (plus a special treat for any of you who make it to the end).

Our Flick of the Week is “Space Jam” — you may have heard of it. A certain basketball player teams with cartoon characters to defeat — it would be silly, wouldn’t it, if I wrote, “tries to defeat” — animated aliens threatening to wreck the Looney Tunes gang as well as an array of NBA stars ranging (in height) from Shawn Bradley to Muggsy Bogues, a span of 27 inches.

How good is Michael Jordan playing himself? Very good. He wisely accepted as a first movie a script that builds nicely on his genial personality in an assortment of TV ads. The sound bites are just a little longer. He also delivers dialogue that is as sharp as what comes from his public persona. In other words, he doesn’t play a character who is hard to believe, nor does he play a dumbed-down version of himself. Sounds obvious? Tell it to Shaquille O’Neal and his dumb genie character in the disastrous “Kazaam.” Movie score: Bulls 1, Lakers 0.

"Space Jam" also manages to offer jokes and action that will appeal to adults as well as children. Compared with the most recent Disney animated features, "Space Jam" is, at times, a hoot, especially when it has fun with Michael's less-than-stellar baseball career and the way his fellow players were starstruck. Reportedly, the scene in which a rival catcher tips him off to the pitches comes from real life.

Michael’s assets as a film star are many. He is great-looking; his eyes sparkle, and he has a star aura. All that holds him back from establishing a career is script selection. Supporting roles and working with good directors should figure into the mix. Bill Murray is fine for broad comic relief as Michael’s teammate, and Wayne Knight from “Seinfeld” manages to fill out the traditional fat guy role with a measure of dignity. My only major quibble with the picture is that the new animated alien characters we meet at the beginning of the film are less than inspired. They get better when they turn into NBA-cloned “Monstars.” By the way, tell your kids you want to wait a few days before seeing “Space Jam.” The lines will be long and the frustration level (if you get shut out) will be high. “Space Jam” is rated PG.

3 1/2 stars

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