And no, James isn’t a cameo player, as many might think. He’s in the film’s starting lineup and, unlike the NBA Finals, he’s winning. (Although, actually, he still succeeded in that, too, considering he won the ESPY this week for “best championship performance.”)
James plays a version of himself, which The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr calls, “the cleverest counter-self-portrait since Michael Cera’s coke-addled sex fiend in ‘This is the End.’ ”
The film version of James pinches pennies and loves “Downton Abbey,” which is a good setup considering James is incredibly wealthy and his real-life favorite TV show is “Martin.”
The Washington Post’s own Ann Hornaday complimented James’s “expert, deadpan timing” in his scenes, of which there are quite a few.
Indeed, the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis says, James delivers a “surprisingly limber comic presence,” a feat that seemingly surprised her as she called the NBA star’s inclusion in the cast “a heat-seeking gimmick.”
But gimmick, it is not, says The Chicago Sun Times’s Richard Roeper. “James holds his own in scenes with Hader and Schumer, and that’s pretty darn impressive.”
The word “impressive” also showed up in The Los Angeles Times’ Rebecca Keegan‘s review. She said, “His performance reflects impressive off-court timing and a sense of humor about his own image.”
Even The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern, who was probably the hardest on James, was wooed by the end of the film.
“Mr. James goes from playing a clumsy version of the cheapskate defined by Jack Benny in the golden age of radio to an imposing, and endearing, version of himself. In one terrific sequence he and Aaron shoot hoops. In another he delivers, with impeccable comic timing, a dissertation on marriage that centers on Kanye West.”
James’s only real critic — at least until the movie opens and scorned Miami Heat fans get a chance to view it — seems to be himself.
“I’m not that good in it,” he told TMZ Sports, adding, “Amy Schumer and Bill Hader are unbelievable,” though.