Count Them Butts
Teen Titans Go! See Space Jam
I did not grow up watching Space Jam. For kids of the 1990s, this was a pivotal movie, one that resonated as strongly for them as, say, Batman or The Neverending Story did for kids born just a few short years earlier. I was born just early enough that when Space Jam came out, I was already of an age (15) where going to see a Looney Tunes movie, even one starring Michael Jordan, didn't have much appeal to me. I had aged out of this film right when it came out, so despite many of my friends having watched, and loved, the film when they grew up, this was not a pivotal experience for me.
Not that there's anything wrong with the Looney Tunes, mind you. They got plenty of play on Nickelodeon as I grew up, and some of those cartoons certainly weren't as "kid friendly" as people might have thought. At the same time, though, Space Jam absolutely was a film aimed at, and geared for, children and I just didn't have the desire to see it. So I went nearly 30 years without seeing the film, and then only finally broke down to watch it recently when I saw that Teen Titans Go! to See Space Jam was available on Max. It wasn't Space Jam that sucked me in, it was the Teen TitansStarted in The Brave and the Bold back in 1964, the Teen Titans were a supergroup formed of the younger sidekicks of the more famous heroes in the DC Comics line. Over the years the team has been reformed, rebooted, and relaunched, but always with that basic premise in place..
I don't think its a cheat to watch the film this way. For the most part, the teen heroes let Space Jam play out as intended, acting as a kind of Mystery Science Theater 3000First aired on the independent TV network KTMA, Mystery Science Theater 3000 grew in popularity when it moved to Comedy Central. Spoofing bad movies, the gang on the show watch the flicks and make jokes about them, entertaining its audience with the same kind of shtick many movies watchers provided on their own (just usually not as funny as the MST3K guys could provide). It became an indelible part of the entertainment landscape from there, and lives on today on Netflix. chorus for the film. Sure, as with MST3K, they pare the film back some, fast-forwarding through some unnecessary plot points and a lot of the opening and closing credits. But, for the most part, this re-watch of Space Jam stays true to the original, just with the Teen Titans heckling it (lovingly) while having some animated antics on the sidelines over the course. It's fun, but it doesn't make me want to watch Space Jam without these hero teens helping me through it.
Created as a way to promote Space Jam: A New Legacy when that sequel came out in 2021, Teen Titans Go! to See Space Jam is exactly what it says on the label: the Teen Titans (of Teen Titans Go!) watching Space Jam. A prerequisite for watching this film, then, is a desire to either (a) see Space Jam or (b) see the Teen Titans. I wasn't in the former camp, but I do find the TV series rather amusing, so I was in for at least their heckling of the film. In the end, though, you are watching Space Jam, so be prepared for that.
As someone that hasn't seen Space Jam before, the film was... eh, okay. It was about what I expected from the trailers I'd seen back in the day, and while I went in with an open mind for it, it didn't exactly thrill. Something tells me this film is far more interesting if you are a young kid (even now I'm sure there are still kids that know who Michael Jordan is) or are an adult and have rose-tinted glasses for the movie. If you're not, then this is just a pretty simple, if at times passingly amusing, animated feature that just so happens to star Michael Jordan. It's fine, but if you don't already have a love for it I don't think the Teen Titans are going to sell you on it.
In brief, the Looney Tunes (Bugs, Daffy, Porky, et al), are visited by a group of aliens, the Nerdlucks, who want to take the cartoon characters back to their home world so they can work in the amusement park of their boss, Mr. Swackhammer. This would, essentially, be slave labor, and the Looneys want none of it. The small aliens don't seem like much a threat, though, so the Tunes jokingly challenge them to a game of basketball. Nothing wrong could happen there, right? Surely not.
Well, as it turns out, the aliens are capable of stealing the essence of various basketball players. They take the skills of the best players in the NBA and come back to the Looneys, buff, tricked out, and capable of playing the meanest game of b-ball around. Desperate for a way out of this mess, the Looneys turn the only person they can think of that could save them: retired basketball player Michael Jordan, still one of the strongest players of the game. They suck him into their game and plead for him to help, which he eventually agrees to do. But even then they'll have their work cut out for them as the Nerdlucks will be one hard team to beat.
For what it is, Space Jam isn't bad. It's a cute and inoffensive little film that manages to combine Michael Jordan with the Looney Tunes characters. This isn't as revelatory as it could be if you've seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and film that pretty convincingly blended cartoons into live-action, but it does have a certain amusing art style that works. It's plot isn't anything really special (most o the film is taken up by the basketball game, and even this show piece doesn't really do much to play to the strength of the Looneys), but it likely could entertain a little kid for a an hour and a half with cartoon antics and some mild sporting fun.
Really, the point of watching Teen Titans Go! See Space Jam, at least for me, was watching the antics of the Titans. This can be divided into two sections: the animated story outside the film we're watching and then the heckling of the film. Of the two parts, the heckling is better. There are plenty of funny asides, with the faces of the characters showing up on screen as they talk, while tidbits of trivia are listed, jokes are made, and butts are counted (courtesy of Beast Boy). Doing MST3K-style commentary while in character is an interesting and amusing choice and it works for these characters (who so frequently break the fourth wall in their own show). I liked the heckling, which was light and in offensive but at times amusing. as a kind of "baby's first MST3K" it did really work.
But the story outside the story, the cartoony bits wrapped around Space Jam, didn't really work as well. In the setup for our experience, the Nerdlucks come down to Earth to visit the Teen Titans. It's obvious to Robin that these creatures can't be trusted, but everyone else on the team is all, "naw, man, they were in Space Jam. They're cool." They even give their powers to the Nerdlucks at some point because it would be fun. And, wouldn't you know it, Robin is then proven right because, hey, the Nerdlucks are evil. This should be obvious to anyone that has seen Space Jam, although I guess if this was your first time watching that film then maybe you wouldn't see it coming. I still did, even without seeing that film before, because it's obvious but... eh.
Really, the frame story is just a bit of lazy writing to get the Nerdlucks in with the Teen Titans. If you're here for a wacky Teen Titans Go! adventure then you'll likely leave disappointed. There are better feature-length adventures for these heroes, like Teen Titans Go! To the Movies and Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans, and this experiment in mild MST3K just doesn't hold up.
Really, this was just an excuse to introduce Space Jam to a new generation before the sequel came out, and to do it in such a way that little kids might actually site down and watch. On that front I think the film is fine, but it doesn't come together well enough that I would want to watch this version of the film again. And, really, having now gotten through Space Jam once, now, I doubt I'll ever revisit that film again either.