There’s a lot of things LeBron James can do. From dominating the NBA for well over two decades to marketing his brand outside of basketball, he’s the king for a reason. He built a school in Akron, Ohio for inner-city and at-risk children. It’s the kind of leadership and image that the black community needs right now in America. James has also been a strong advocate for the black community and amplifying our voices, whether in media or the community itself. He stars as one of the executive producers and co-hosts for The Shop on HBO, a black-centric talk show where racial issues are debated in a barbershop setting. Rumored to cross the threshold of black billionaires this year, LeBron James is what every black male should aspire to be. In the end, even Superman had his kryptonite. For LeBron James, that’s acting.
Let me start by saying this isn’t James’ first leap into the Medusa-like Hollywood industry. Since his role (as LeBron James) in the Amy Schumer film Trainwreck, Lebron hasn’t done much in the way of acting. Aside from his voice acting as Gwangi in the 2018 film Smallfoot, LeBron has maintained an executive producer role on projects that shine a light on social issues. Being an executive producer is very much different than acting as LeBron will soon find out.
LeBron James makes his first official headline acting debut with Space Jam: A New Legacy. Extending his partnership with HBO, it’s a gamble on whether LeBron James can carry a franchise successfully. If judging by this 1hr 55min runtime, we might have to bench him for later.
The film follows LeBron James and his complicated relationship with his son Dom James (played by Cedric Joe). Dom has really no interest in following in his father’s legacy like his older brother Darius James (played by Ceyair J Wright) but instead dreams of being a video game developer. It’s the foundation on which the film plays out. A very successful father aggressively pushing his sons to follow in his footsteps. It even comes with its own crappy cheesy writing. Within the first 15 minutes, we are greeted with our first heavy monologue. You know, the one where the actors are clearly talking to the audience but not really. LeBron James is talking with Dom encouraging him to set aside his clear dream of dethroning NBA 2k with his basketball game (you hate basketball but decide you like it enough to create a video game version of it. Hmm.) But of course, LeBron James doesn’t see eye to eye with his son.
We see the strain of their relationship reach the pivotal film’s first conflict when LeBron James and Dom travel to Warner Bros. headquarters for a business meeting. With the business meeting underway, we are introduced to the film’s villain, AI G. Rhythm played by Don Cheadle. He’s the underappreciated AI responsible for the collapse of Warner Bros.’s golden age of cartoons (he might have also had a hand in Game of Thrones‘ disastrous season 8.) For some reason still unknown, Steven Yeun (Walking Dead, Invincible) and Sarah Silverman (Bob’s Burgers) show up as Warner Bros. executives. Moving on.
After yet another argument with his dad, Dom leaves the business meeting and gets on an elevator. LeBron catches up with him on the elevator and the disagreement continues until LeBron realizes they missed their floor. They come to a server room and a game of cat and mouse ensues for a little bit before both being transported into the servers of Warner Bros.
It’s a world full of codes and numbers, like The Matrix but blue. AI G. Rhythm thinks Dom is underappreciated, like him, by his father. So what does any normal AI system do? He kidnaps the kid and challenges the greatest basketball player to a game for the fate of his son. Question, what’s up with the villains of the Space Jam franchise challenging our best warriors to a game? I mean, do they not get the NBA Sports package or NBA on TNT outside of Earth?
LeBron and AI G. Rhythm agree to the conditions of the match. LeBron James is then sent to Toon World in search of a team. Only then do we meet the real star of the film, Bugs Bunny. In this world, AI has scattered Bugs and his Looney Tunes gang all across the Warner Bros. multiverse. In an exchange of deals, Bugs agree to help LeBron win and get his son back if he can help Bugs reunite his gang.
One of the film’s best parts is the long sequence of Bugs and LeBron visiting some of Warner’s most lucrative properties picking up characters. From picking up Daffy Duck from DC to recruiting Granny from the Matrix, it’s all well done. It is also where we see LeBron at his best. Using his voice for the amination part of the film makes me feel like a young kid again. Looking back, if the whole film was amination, it might have fared better.
While LeBron trains his team, AI does his best to sway Dom to his side. Feeding on Dom’s quest to be seen in his father’s eyes, Dom gives full control of his video game code to AI. Together, the two began to create a supervillain team filled with some of the best basketball players. Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Diana Taurasi, Nneka Ogwumike, and Klay Thompson. The film does a great job of making the likeness of each WNBA and NBA player to their unique skillset.
The film’s showdown brings an all-star cast of background members. From Casablanca to King Kong, everyone descends on Tune World to see the Tune Squad take on the Goon Squad. Even with Erie Johnson Jr. and Lil Rel doing commentary on the match, the game itself just doesn’t live up to much at all. It’s weighed down by Lebron’s ego to be the leader of the Tune World that takes away from the overall third act of the film. I can’t place the blame all on him though. Don Cheadle played a major part in the collapse of the end too. Again, it was a family film of the week kind of thing. Not really for a 27-year-old journalist to pick apart.
The best parts of the film came from none other than the Looney Tunes. Just like Space Jam before, they are really what holds these films together. Seeing the whole gang like countless Saturdays before I grew up made sitting through the film worthwhile. Even in 2021, the Looney Tunes know how to bring laughter and bring it organically. It was the same thing with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? People and animations don’t really seem to mix. Overall, the film was nice but more bad than good. If anything, it’s enough to watch it from the Looney Tunes. Here’s to hoping LeBron James is using the off-season to work with an acting coach.