Space Jam appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This disc represented the third DVD incarnation of Space Jam. The initial release came out as one of the very first discs ever produced back in 1997. It presented a fullscreen version of the film and almost no extras. A special edition of Space Jam made it to the shelves in 2000. It included a smattering of supplements but still only gave fans a fullscreen rendition of the movie.
With this third release, Space Jam finally got the widescreen treatment, but it failed to present a stellar image. Much of the picture seemed rather erratic. Sharpness varied much of the time. Many shots looked nicely detailed and distinctive, but more than a few exceptions occurred. Starting with the opening prologue, some scenes came across as oddly ill defined and fuzzy. These instances didn’t dominate the film, but they popped up much more frequently than I’d like.
I noticed no examples of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement also appeared absent during Jam. Print flaws showed up, but not to an extreme. Occasional examples of specks and grit manifested themselves at times. These mostly occurred during effects shots, particularly those that melded live action and animation. A bit more grain than one might anticipate also appeared during the movie.
Given the broad and cartoony palette of Jam, one might expect excellent colors, and that often occurred. Most of the animated sequences looked nicely vivid and vibrant. However, some of the live action shots were a bit dull and muddy, and the combination images also demonstrated some of those problems. Colors mostly looked good, but not all the time. Black levels were fairly dense, though additional exceptions took place, and low-light shots sometimes seemed moderately opaque. The film seemed somewhat poorly lit for dark-skinned actors, and since the movie starred one, that created issues; it was too tough to make out Jordan’s face too much of the time. Ultimately, Space Jam presented some attractive sequences, but given the vintage of the film, the image came as a fairly mediocre one.
More impressive was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Space Jam. Actually, while I mostly liked the audio, the soundfield offered a mild disappointment. With the wild and zany universe at play here, I thought the mix would take better advantage of the multi-channel options than it did. The audio remained pretty strongly oriented toward the front speakers. Within that domain, the soundfield seemed well executed. Elements were appropriately placed and meshed together neatly. Music also showed good stereo imaging. As for the rear channels, they added some decent reinforcement to the setting, but they lacked the pizzazz I expected. A few sequences – like one with Wile E. Coyote – zoomed around the back nicely, but those scenes occurred fairly infrequently.
The somewhat restricted scope of the mix was the only reason it didn’t hit “A” level, for the audio quality seemed terrific. Speech was consistently natural and distinctive, and I noticed no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded concise and accurate. They presented solid dimensionality, with clean highs and deep lows. Music fared especially well, as the score and songs were lively and dynamic. Expect this one to pump your subwoofer actively, as Space Jam offered a generally satisfying soundtrack.
Most of this two-disc special edition’s extras show up on DVD Two, but the first platter includes a couple of components. In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer - presented anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio – we get an audio commentary from director Joe Pytka plus Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. A holdover from the 2000 single-disc special edition, this track actually mainly features two folks not directly mentioned on the packaging: voice artists Billy West and Dee Bradley Baker. The performers behind Bugs and Daffy, they speak both in character and as themselves. In the latter form, they offer the majority of the commentary. Sometimes they just praise the movie and relate the names of other performers, but they also shed some light on the voice acting process and add an interesting perspective. Their material as Bugs and Daffy pops up fairly infrequently and consists of wry comments about their work and the movie. It’s not exactly a laugh riot, but it’s reasonably entertaining.
As for Pytka, he shows up sporadically. The commentary offers an odd conceit as part of its construction. While West/Bugs and Baker/Daffy provided a running, screen-specific discussion, Pytka’s parts were clearly recorded separately and edited into the piece. To create the illusion that he participated with the others, before Pytka speaks, we hear a door open and the sound of footsteps. When he finishes, the footsteps walk away and the door closes. This shouldn’t fool anyone.
I read a few other reviews that claimed Pytka said almost nothing during this commentary. That’s not accurate. No, he doesn’t remark frequently, but he shows up regularly and adds some decent information. Among other topics, he discusses how he got onto the project, his relationship with Michael Jordan, dealing with technical issues, and amassing the music soundtrack. When Pytka talks, his statements seem informative and educational. Overall, the commentary has some good moments, but it suffers from way too many gaps, as a lot of empty space mars this presentation.
As we go to DVD Two, we start with a documentary called Jammin’ With Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan. Created at the time of the film’s theatrical release, he 22 and a half minute show mixes movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Michael Jordan, director Pytka, executive producer Ivan Reitman, actors Danny De Vito and Wayne Knight, animator Chuck Jones, animation producer Ron Tippe, composer James Newton Howard, and Cinesite CEO Ed Jones. We learn a little about the production and get some decent glimpses of the creation of the effects. However, the tone remains overwhelmingly promotional, as “Jammin’” exists solely to tell us how wonderful the movie is. This means the result seems generally uninformative and lacks much to make it worth a watch.
In an area called “Adventures”, we find four Looney Tunes shorts. This domain includes “Another Froggy Evening”, “Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers”, “Night of the Living Duck”, and Unfortunately, none of these present cartoons from the classic era. All were created between 1987 and 1998, and none of them seem terribly entertaining; they definitely don’t live up to the heights of the Looney Tunes Golden era.
“Adventures” also presents something called Bugs Vs. Daffy: Battle of the Music Video Stars. This offers a compilation of musical sequences from a slew of old cartoons. It’s worth a look if just to see some really obscure material in this 23-minute and 25-second collection.
Speaking of music videos, we find two directly connected to Space Jam. We get Seal’s “Fly Like an Eagle” and the Monstars Anthem “Hit ‘Em High”. The Seal clip mixes lip-synching with movie snippets and shots of MJ and others as they shoot hoops. The song’s a decent update of the Steve Miller hit, but the video seems dull. “Hit ‘Em High” uses the same lip-synch/movie segment format, but the song is much more annoying.
For DVD-ROM users, you’ll find the usual complement of links plus a game demo related to Looney Tunes: Back In Action. Called “Wooden Nickel Dance-Off”, this requires you to select one of nine dance moves called out by Yosemite Sam. With each successive round, you get less and less time to pick the proper move. Unlike the annoying game attached to the Looney Tunes Premiere Collection, this one’s actually kind of fun, though it takes a very long time to become challenging.
Neither an embarrassment nor a treasure, Space Jam occasionally provides some entertaining moments, and it largely maintains the viewer’s interest throughout its brief running time. However, it never grabs the audience’s attention strongly, and it fails to remotely approach to live up to its potential. The DVD presents surprisingly mediocre picture quality along with pretty positive audio and a decent set of extras. Fans of Space Jam will like this set, as it presents the best DVD representation of the film to date. For those without an established fondness for the flick, it might make some decent family viewing, but I can’t strongly recommend this fairly lackluster movie.