"Uncle Drew" Hits More Shots Than it Misses
Some films have no purpose other than to entertain. There’s no intent to make a grand political or social statement, the whole goal is to put smiles on faces. Charles Stone III’s Uncle Drew's such a movie and, for the most part, it succeeds in what it sets out to do. While the movie is predictable and its source is a series of Pepsi commercials (you’re reminded throughout with the constant product placement), this modest piece of escapism is surprisingly fun and its characters an appealing crew to spend 100 minutes with.
Community basketball coach Dax (Lil Rel Howery) has one goal and one goal only – to put together a team to win the annual Rucker Basketball Tournament, a Harlem-based contest that attracts the best amateur players in the country. The prize is $100,000 and Dax has assembled a team so strong, he’s counting his winnings before it’s in his pocket. Unfortunately, his arch-nemesis Mookie (Nick Kroll) steals his team, as well as his girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish) leaving him high and dry. Despondent, he goes to a local court and sees the seemingly ancient Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) in action, schooling players half his age. Dax sees his opportunity and convinces the old man to assemble a team to compete in the Rucker. Problem is, his hard court cohorts are spread hither and yon around the country, so the unlikely duo hits the road to pull them together.
Like Irving, former and current NBA players (Shaquille O’Neil, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson and Chris Webber) don old-age makeup before creating their brand of magic on the court. While one would expect that they can still drive the lane and hit from the outside with the best of them (They can!), what is surprising is how well each of them accord themselves in regards to delivering comedic moments as well as poignant ones. Playing husband and wife, Webber has great chemistry with WNBA star Lisa Leslie both on and off the court, while the other ballers are equally convincing. Unlike other sports stars that never have a chance of convincing us they’re doing nothing more than reading cue cards, this crew is natural and at ease on screen, creating a roster of likable characters you can’t help rooting for.
As for the professional thespians, Howery, coming off his scene-stealing role as the security guard in Get Out, creates a relatable underdog in Dax, while Kroll and Haddish seem to be competing in some sort of over-acting contest, scene-rending being the order of the day. While the former comes off as obnoxious but funny, the later is far too annoying to be appealing. However, this is a minor complaint where this guilty pleasure is concerned.