Last night, following the rather ugly spectacle of LeBron James completely bombing what was potentially his last ever hometown game as a Cleveland Cavalier, viewers of the post-game “Inside The NBA” were treated to a visit from Ice Cube and Terry Crews, promoting the TV version of “Are We There Yet?” — surely the least necessary and most unlikely movie-to-TV transition of recent years, but at least one which acknowledges that the movies were pretty sitcom-level to begin with.
Charles Barkley seemed overjoyed to share some time with Cube, whose facial expression suggested he couldn’t believe he was getting away with passing off such a shoddy product so successfully. Cube’s deadpan delivery of TBS’ signature line “TBS — Very Funny” suggests he’s not at all convinced by what he’s selling, and his pitch for the show (basically, that it’s very funny) wasn’t very convincingly delivered. Then there was a free throw shooting competition and Cube performed very poorly, taking forever to sink his two shots. Barkley seemed more amused by that than the show.
The highlight of the mildly surreal gathering was Cube discussing how he came to work with Crews, the former Rams linebacker-turned-actor who Cube said wouldn’t shut up about his acting aspirations when he was his on-set bodyguard. Incidentally, Crews was right to speak up — his breakout role was in Cube’s “Friday After Next,” where his ridiculously jacked-up body and presumable penchant for wreaking havoc was an effective, never-ending punchline.
That used to be the schtick of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who tried to get by on timing and the size disparity between himself and everyone else (see his pairings with Danny DeVito) in his comic turns, but the one thing he couldn’t do was be amused by his own body. For Crews, his body is the joke, something Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric figured out in their Old Spice commercials with Crews, where his sculpted biceps and six-pack literally take on a life of their own.
That makes Crews a rare commodity — no one out there is quite as good at playing big, dumb and violent. Getting him to play second banana to a Tyler Perry show on TBS seems like a serious waste of time: “Are We There Yet?” looks fairly unwatchable, though Cube’s hood-violent brother-in-law appears to be predictably hilarious. (It’s telling that Cube — of late specializing in clean-cut films for the whole family, with very profitable results — has jumped at this chance to reclaim his N.W.A. image for a bit.) But the idea of Crews as the first muscle-bound body to become a cult comic hero — which, between the burgeoning cult statuses of his commercials, as well as being Terry Camacho in “Idiocracy,” seems like a sure thing — is intriguing. Terry Crews: most successful ex-football player-turned-comic actor in history? Yeah, probably.
[Photos: “Friday After Next,” New Line Cinema, 2002; “Idiocracy,” 20th Century Fox, 2006.]