If the New Yorker is to be believed, Amy Schumer cast LeBron James in her feature film debut Trainwreck by default—he was the only basketball player she could name. The film, whose script she also wrote, is, in theory, about Amy (Schumer), a female journalist at a men’s magazine who falls in love with the sports medicine doctor, Aaron (Bill Hader), she’s profiling. Trainwreck isn’t … a train wreck—though it’s not great, either. (It’s kind of like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, but somewhat less clever and in desperate need of editing.) Schumer plays a weird hybrid of her real-life public persona—a blunt, thoughtful feminist—and the people she plays on TV—clueless narcissists—that doesn’t exactly translate into a coherent character. Confusingly, Hader’s doctor on the other hand is perfect in every way—he treats Amy wonderfully, wins awards from Doctors Without Borders, and hangs out with NBA players. Which brings me to the best part of this movie: LeBron James.
The charm and slyness of the four-time NBA MVP’s performance may be best encapsulated in the moment when he asks Hader when they are going to watch Downton Abbey: “I’m not going to go to practice and all the guys are talking about it and I’m left out.”
At first glance, it can seem like an Apatowian (Judd Apatow directed the movie) standard: poking fun at a manly basketball player for watching a British period drama about table settings. But LeBron-centric jokes like this are actually a saving grace of the surprisingly dull and predictable Trainwreck. LeBron plays an earnestly hilarious version of himself. This “LeBron” is eloquent and in touch with his emotions—at one point he grills Schumer about her intentions with Hader, asking her if he’s her Cleveland. (He does a lot of poking fun of himself about his obsession with Cleveland, which, let’s face it, he deserves.) Once you get over the part where it makes absolutely zero sense for the star of the Cleveland Cavaliers to be spending so much time in New York City—or the part where he’d be best buds with the guy who seems to be the official doctor of Madison Square Garden—you can enjoy the ease with which LeBron consistently deadpans his lines. Another funny trait that LeBron gamely embraces with low-key swagger: this “LeBron” is a huge cheapskate who makes Hader’s Aaron split the bill item by item for lunch.
Both Hader and Schumer have proven comedic chops, but Trainwreck doesn’t seem to quite know how to use them. (The movie also features a nearly unrecognizable Tilda Swinton as Schumer’s editor, but her character is very one-note crazy.) LeBron, whose previous acting experience is essentially starring in Samsung ads about his life, is the best part of Trainwreck because he’s the only actor whose natural talents are actually used well—and I’m not talking about his jump shot, though he gets to show off his basketball skills in one hilarious game of one-on-one.
The playing-basketball-with-your-dudes-while-talking-about-girls trope is a familiar one in rom-coms—but it’s not usually with the world’s best basketball player. Hader does absurd gymnastics trying to score off LeBron, who just stands there like a rock stuffing Hader and effortlessly scoring. LeBron is obviously playing an exaggerated version of himself, but it’s coherent and consistent and, really, really funny.
Other basketball players show up, including a great cameo from former Knicks Amar’e Stoudemire, but the movie belongs to LeBron. I may not have loved Trainwreck, but I’m sure looking forward to the sequel starring LeBron.