Spike Lee may always be remembered for the righteous classics he’s made (including Do the Right Thing, which is still making waves), but the irrepressible New York icon continues to be one of the most vital and innovative filmmakers working today. Exhibit A: He’s written and directed a feature-length film that’s entirely comprised of video game cut-scenes.
Lee has dipped a toe into the gaming world before, but his latest project takes things to another level. An extension of the “MyCareer” mode from NBA2K16, the feature-length Livin’ Da Dream uses the game’s graphics to tell the story of hoops phenom Frequency Vibrations (“Freq” for short) as he rises from the projects of Harlem to the University of Kansas and the shining spotlight of the NBA. Hardly a lazy gimmick, the film runs almost two hours, bears Lee’s unmistakable imprint at every turn, and packs enough drama to sustain an entire season of Ballers. And while Livin’ Da Dream certainly reflects the spirit of the moment, it also has some treats in store for fans of the filmmaker’s more traditional joints — most notably, the return of a certain sports agent from Lee’s 1998 basketball saga He Got Game, who pops up here in polygonal form to help push Freq towards stardom.
Featuring motion-captured performances from Anya Engel-Adams, Michelle Mitchenor, and Sarunas J. Jackson (who also appears in Spike Lee’s next live-action feature, Chi-Raq), Livin’ Da Dream is another reminder that it’s always an interesting time to be in the business of Spike Lee. And that’s the double truth, Ruth.