Star Turn

LeBron James is trying to make a movie. This is so obviously a bad idea. (USA TODAY Sports)

LeBron James is trying to make a movie. This is so obviously a bad idea. (USA TODAY Sports)

Being a professional athlete requires access to a kind of positive thinking that’s hard for regular folk to fathom. It takes, not just healthy self-belief, but something like religious fervor to achieve the sorts of things LeBron James has. It’s puzzling to me when people are put off by athletes seeming arrogant, because arrogance — whether mostly harnessed, or somewhat toxic — is pretty much a requirement for being as good at anything as the pros are at their craft.

The thing about arrogance is that when you achieve the exceedingly difficult things you have the audacity to say you’re going to do, people don’t call it arrogance. You’ve got swagger or confidence or gusto. On the court, LeBron is confident. Off it, well, the general Kanye-trapped-in-a-velvet-mine sensibility that informs his fashion choices gives you an idea.

So, LeBron James is going to make a movie, because LeBron believes he can do whatever he sets his mind to, and his wealth and cultural cachet assure that this is almost always true. By the same token, he could buy a goose farm and walk off the team bus every game flanked by geese dressed up like knights and insist that everyone refer to him as Goose King. He could tell Blimpie that he’s willing to be their spokesman for free if they agree to change their slogan to “Blimpie: Because This Town Doesn’t Have an Arby’s for Some Reason. It’s Weird That They Have a Blimpie, But Not an Arby’s. Anyway, Whatever, I’m Too Hungry to Care.” Out of all the spectacularly useless things he could accomplish, making a movie written by and starring Kevin Hart seems like dreaming small.

Speaking of small, a way to make this film not a sub-Tyler Perry Presents throwaway cash-grab with some celebrities sleepwalking through it, but something that aspires to the mantle of Ozu and Truffaut it is to take the Kevin Hart formula to its logical extreme, quadrupling-down on the short jokes until it becomes dark and difficult to watch.

For instance, Hart shows up to the basketball camp LeBron is running, and Bron cracks wise. “This here camp is for adults. You wouldn’t fit into an adult anything.” The moviegoers erupt with laughter. But then the script just keeps pushing the Kevin-Hart-is-little thing, to the point that at 45 minutes in LeBron is screaming “You are a very small person! You are nothing to me because you are not tall!” with terrifying anger. The movie’s midpoint is Hart sitting outside a VIP section, sobbing at the feet of a scary clown holding a You Must Be This Tall sign while LeBron stares at him contemptuously in the background. This scene goes on for 12 minutes.

The second half of the film is just an hours-long loop of that sunny Samsung commercial where LeBron is hanging out and goofing around with his wife and kids, but the footage is now intensely unnerving because the audience now sees LeBron as a hateful monster.

I’m just spitballing here, but what I’m saying is Bron should dare to take risks. This is not a man who accepts mediocrity, so why would he accept being a famous guy who plays himself in movies, when he could be a divisive, avant-garde auteur? Oh, yeah, I should have mentioned: LeBron absolutely needs to direct this thing, all unintended dutch angles and maybe a couple scenes that are for no discernible reason employ that Hype Williams video-letterboxing technique. LeBron can do whatever he sets his mind to. He shouldn’t limit himself.