LeBron James’ decision to throw his freedom-loving colleagues under the bus to appease the Chinese Communist government apparently wasn’t enough to score his starring vehicle a place in Chinese theaters.
Last October, after then-Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morrey posted a tweet in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, James was quick to provide aid and comfort to their totalitarian oppressors.
As The Daily Wire reported, James said, in a move that was widely perceived as an effort to stay in the CCP’s good graces, “We all talk about this freedom of speech, yes, we all do have freedom of speech but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others and you’re only thinking about yourself.” He added, “I don’t want to get into a … feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand.”
Basketball fans then routinely taunted James, who has postured himself as a social justice warrior, for his ongoing silence in the face of China’s oppressive policies in Hong Kong and its humanitarian atrocities against its own Uyghur population.
As Fox Sports host Clay Travis put it, “LeBron James shut up and dribbled so that ‘Space Jam 2’ could be viewed in China.”
Sadly for James, the gambit doesn’t appear to have worked. The CCP has yet to grant the film a release date. And the star power that Warner Bros. was counting on to draw American audiences has been seriously tarnished since James became the most-hated player in the NBA due to his Black Lives Matter activism.
China stalling on a release date for the Looney Tunes film is a huge blow to Warner Bros. as it was expected to earn a significant portion of its box office in the foreign market. Worse, a barrage of negative reviews from critics will likely hamper its earnings domestically as well.
ABC News’ Peter Travers called the movie, which currently holds a 37% score at Rotten Tomatoes, nothing more than a “corporate ad campaign. And Entertainment Weekly’s Mary Sollosi said, “You will be amazed by how little the basketball game resembles an actual sport, and how hard it is to sit through.”
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times had perhaps the most scathing take, saying, “I’ve never seen anything like it. I also hope to never see anything like it again, and I wish I could unsee what I have seen.”
Overseas reviews aren’t any better with the U.K.’s Independent calling it “nauseating” and The Guardian dubbing it a “garish and soulless stinker.” Meanwhile, in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald said, “The story is an airball.”
“Space Jam 2” may yet make it past Chinese censors, but given that it is now out in the U.S. and therefore making its way onto pirate sites worldwide, it will be too late for Warner Bros. to score big bucks from that market.
Megan Basham is an Entertainment Reporter for The Daily Wire and an approved Rotten Tomatoes Critic. You can follow her on Twitter @megbasham.