Summit Entertainment/Temple Hill Entertainment/Pepsi Productions
Directed by Charles Stone III
Produced by Marty Bowen/Wyck Godfrey
Written by Jay Longino
There’s a part in UNCLE DREW where Shaquille O’Neal looks directly into the camera and says with a straight face; “I’ve come a long way since “Kazaam.’” I could have taken that statement more seriously if a few minutes prior to his saying that I hadn’t seen a scene with his bare bottom peeking out at me through a hospital gown.
But I do have to give him credit for being an effective and occasionally funny actor as are his co-stars, all former NBA basketball All-Stars who play a crew of septuagarian basketball players who reunite to teach the youngbloods what the game is truly all about. Oh, yeah, and win the Rucker Park Basketball Tournament.
Winning the tournament is also the dream of Dax (Lil Rel Howery) who has invested his life savings into Casper (Aaron Gordon) a phenomenal player who is the MVP of Dax’s team. Along comes Dax’s lifelong nemesis Mookie (Nick Kroll) who humiliated Dax on the court when they were kids. Mookie not only steals Casper and the rest of Dax’s team but Dax’s girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish) as well.
Broke and despondent, Dax sees no light at the end of the tunnel. This is until he sees an elderly man who looks as if he should be somewhere getting measured for a coffin playing basketball against a kid young enough to be his great-grandson. And the old dude beats the young kid as if he’s been doing this every day of his life.
Turns out he has. The old dude is the legendary Uncle Drew, the Zen Master of basketball (Kyrie Irving) renowned in song and story for having played a game where he dunked on every man on the opposing team with his left hand while eating a ham sandwich with his right. Uncle Drew was considered unbeatable and seemed destined to be the greatest basketball player of all time. Until he disappeared and the members of his squad, all magnificent players in their own right, quietly went on to lead other lives.
But the thought of playing once again with his old crew and perhaps mending some seriously broken emotional fences entices Uncle Drew to partner up with Dax and so they round up Uncle Drew’s squad. Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal) is now a martial arts teacher with his own dojo. Preacher (Chris Webber) is now an ordained minister. Lights (Reggie Miller) can’t wait to get back on the court again but there’s one little problem: he’s legally blind. Boots (Nate Robinson) lives in a retirement home and hasn’t gotten out of his wheelchair in years. But you’ve seen this kind of movie many times before and therefore you know that some minor things like that aren’t going to stop a gang of plucky underdogs who along their path to fame and fortune bond together to become a family.
I have to say that I was more than pleasantly surprised by the performances of the basketball players in this movie. They all show a definite gift for comedy and Kyrie Irving especially stood out for me. He understood the character of his character. Uncle Drew doesn’t have to get the laughs all the way through the movie. In fact, Uncle Drew is at his best being the emotional core of the team and providing a sort of running commentary on the actions of the other characters. And much as I like Lil Rey Howery he comes across as Kevin Hart Lite in this one. And Tiffany Haddish really needs to find herself a new movie persona quick ‘cause the one she’s been running since “Girls Trip” is getting a little wearying.
Still, they are doing only what the material requires them to do and that’s enough for this kind of movie. UNCLE DREW is nothing more than light, breezy summer entertainment. Sure, it gets in it’s underlying message about friendship, commitment, belief in your dreams and all that while using the game of basketball as a metaphor but UNCLE DREW just wants you to sit back, enjoy the AC and have fun hanging out with a buncha of old timers who only want to prove that you don’t stop playing because you get old. You get old because you stop playing. Enjoy.