They were everywhere: screaming, tumbling, tackling, burping. Like Gremlins with Booster Buddies, they ripped posters from walls and hurled Goobers through the air at Mach speed. Approximately 8 billion boys and girls flocked to see Space Jam its opening weekend, and man, are their parents gonna be sorry. Director Joe Pytka’s Michael Jordan propaganda film will undoubtably cost Mom and Dad much more than Junior’s $4.50 ticket. Big on visuals, short on script, the movie is a merchandising bonanza. See Mike dribble, see Mike dunk, see Mike shill for Nike and McDonald’s. When aliens enslave Bugs Bunny and Co. for employment at an outer-space amusement park, the Looney Tunes crew proposes a game of hoops to regain its freedom. After the aliens extract talent from nonthespian NBAers like Charles Barkley and Larry Johnson, there’s only one man to save the day: Air MJ, acting with the same charm he exudes in his commercials. It doesn’t take a genius to realize prolonged live action makes kiddies restless, so ‘toons never leave the screen for too long. To keep taller folks amused, there are plenty of grown-up gags involving Disney, Madonna, Pulp Fiction, money-grubbing agents, and, gulp, Patrick Ewing’s impotence. But while the animation is gorgeous, the relentless Jordan-as-God motif leaves a bad aftertaste. Space Jam is saved from utter ruin by the big showdown: While the young’uns gawk at the hellzapoppin’ action on the court, parents can scan the all-cartoon crowd and spot hundreds of Warner Bros.’ classic fringe creations (including the two hillbillies who once square-danced each other into submission). At area theaters; see Showtimes for venues. (Sean Daly)

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