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Space Jam (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Just in time for LeBron James long awaited take on the Looney Tunes meets NBA superstar big screen adventure, Warner Bros is giving the original Michael Jordan starring Space Jam its 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray update.  As has been proven over the last decade or so, there is a fondness or nostalgia for any given cinematic property from someone’s childhood. I’d never imagined the original Space Jam would be anything more than a footnote/fun fact in the storied career of Michael Jordan, but if you check out social media, you’ll find its some sort of beloved classic to a generation in the same way Hook has turned out to be. But, if the film makes people happy, then so be it, what’s the harm in that. The original Space Jam will be available July 6th. You can pre-order it to secure yourself a copy by using the paid Amazon Associates link following the review.

Film

Swackhammer (Danny DeVito), an evil alien theme park owner, needs a new attraction at Moron Mountain. When his gang, the Nerdlucks, heads to Earth to kidnap Bugs Bunny (Billy West) and the Looney Tunes, Bugs challenges them to a basketball game to determine their fate. The aliens agree, but they steal the powers of NBA basketball players, including Larry Bird (Larry Bird) and Charles Barkley (Charles Barkley) — so Bugs gets some help from superstar Michael Jordan (Michael Jordan).

Prior to this review, I haven’t seen Space Jam since 1996. I didn’t think to much of it then, but I did move on with my life. In decades following, I’ve seen it being reviled and making my opinion cultivate as such based on a loose memory. As with all movies from people’s childhoods that weren’t fondly received upon arrival (The Goonies and Hook come to mind), Space Jam‘s generation has grown up to adults with a fondness, a nostalgia and an understanding as to why and what they enjoyed about the film as a kid. We’ve now got a sequel to the film coming, but that could be based more around a once in a generation talent at the center of the NBA again more than desperately wanting the Toon Squad sequel.

In terms of taking another look and analysis of Space Jam myself, I’d say both lovers and detractors are both a bit extreme on it. If you’re looking to rip Space Jam apart, yes, the opportunity to do so is there. Finding it as an incoherent mess is a bit much. Its pretty straightforward and the overall narrative makes sense. It is guilty of being a bit choppy in getting its story to progress, some poor editing and a surprising amount of jokes and animations being done a bit too repetitively (How many times do we have to see someone get stomped and flattened? Seriously). Oh, and the film is oddly horny for an animated bunny, too. No, this movie isn’t without some really odd choices along the way.

On the other side of the coin, the movie is pretty strictly for kids and never tries to pretend to be anything more. There are plenty of toon antics that delve into new and classic Looney Tunes gags. Its lighthearted and Michael Jordan is actually surprisingly really good at pulling this off and acting with animated characters. There are even some jokes that had me giggle pretty decently, especially with some of its more meta approaches. While it might be a rough path to jump there and takes a little long to get its exposition out of the way, the film does get to the main game pretty quickly. It doesn’t mess around in delivering you what it advertised.

Space Jam is a probably more a nostalgic relic above all else. Though its not crime against humanity and still can entertain kids by having a focus strictly for them. That’s probably where a generation’s fondness for it has come from. And again, if you’re looking to be an a-hole about it, the movie indeed invites you to dig in. Am I converted to a big fan? No. Am I a hater? Not at all. But am I going wait another 25 years to watch it again? Possibly.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Space Jam hits 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray for the first time looking a lot better than its standard blu-ray counterpart, but still leaving some to be desired. It carries a bit of a murky look to it. Details, sharpness are pretty fine, but I feel the image could benefit from being a hair more vivid. I’m not sure if that actually is something they could do as this could be something inherent in how the film was made. The animation, the process of merging the live action and toons together and such of 1996 could all be a factor. And this could be the best possible image to pull that off.

Depth:  Depth of field is pretty decent in this image. There’s a good separation of toon and live action while also adding good space and foreground/background disparity. Movements are natural and smooth with no issues coming from any sort of rapid movement on the screen.

Black Levels: Well, this is a pretty dark image, and it handles shading and black levels quite well in a more natural form. Patterns, texture and details hold strong on darker surfaces, fabrics and such. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are plenty bold and distinct, but like the image as a whole, kinda murky. There feels like there could be more pop to them. However, they are well saturation and carry a good distinct and pronounced look.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and carry a consistent appearance start to finish. Facial features and textures are pretty visible in medium and close up shots with good details.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Space Jam has rather terrific Atmos track to bring the film to life. Its a mix that does rather well in inserting the viewer into the game. It has lively environments with a balanced mix that brings the environments all to life. Much of the regular sounds feel to the touch or as if you were there. Overall, this mix probably does a little more than you’d expect of it and then some, which is very welcome.

Height: From overhead you get cheering, players soaring over, passes and a lot of fun stuff that is accurate to seating position with the screen.

Low Frequency Extension:  There’s a good bump from the subwoofer when it comes to explosions, loud dribbles, slam dunks, stepping on toons, stomping, growls, blasts and plenty more.

Surround Sound Presentation:  The speaker mix really plays and has fun with being in an arena. There are unique sounds from all around encompassing you in the galactic b-ball game. Travel rolls with good effect. Even quieter gyms and homes have their place with environments built through side and rear speaker contributions.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

Space Jam comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a redeemable digital code for the film. Aside from the commentary (both discs), all bonus features are on the standard Blu-ray disc.

Audio Commentary

  • From director Joe Pytka, Bugs Bunny (voiced by Billy West) and Daffy Duck (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker)

Music Videos

  • Seal “Fly Like An Eagle” (SD, 3:53)
  • “Hit ‘Em High” (SD, 4:52)

Jammin’ with Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan (SD, 22:32)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:15)

Summary

If you can relegate Space Jam to just a kids’ movie arena and let some whacky stuff go, its a solid time. That’s not making excuses, its just merely accepting what it is and how it works for what it is. Warner Bros new 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release gives it quite a step up from the Blu-ray release, but the video still leaves a little to be desired while rocking the galaxy with a good Atmos track. No new extras installed for this disc, but overall will make a good pick up at a very discounted price.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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