Cast: Kyrie Irving, Lil Rel Howery, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber
Director: Charles Stone III
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: After draining his life savings to enter a team in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem, Dax (LilRel Howery) is dealt a series of unfortunate setbacks, including losing his team to his longtime rival (Nick Kroll). Desperate to win the tournament and the cash prize, Dax stumbles upon the man, the myth, the legend Uncle Drew (NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving) and convinces him to return to the court one more time. The two men embark on a road trip to round up Drew’s old basketball squad (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie) and prove that a group of septuagenarians can still win the big one.
Comparing Uncle Drew to the all-time great movies like The Godfather would be like complaining that a cheeseburger is not as good as filet mignon. I have to judge Uncle Drew on its ability to be a cheeseburger, because that is what the film is trying to be. So, how did this cheeseburger taste? This was a fast-food cheeseburger, not great, but you knew what you were paying for so you cannot complain. While there are a few great comedic moments sprinkled in, the plot was an absolute mess, even for a movie as relaxed and silly as this one.
The movie follows Dax (Howery), a struggling basketball coach who invests all of his savings into building a team that can win the Rucker Classic. After Dax’s longtime archrival Mookie (Nick Kroll) steals his best player from him, Dax must find new players or risk losing everything. He comes across Uncle Drew (Irving), an elderly streetball legend who agrees to play for Dax’s team on one condition; Drew assembles the roster full of his old streetball teammates. As the two go on a cross-country adventure to find these aging athletes, they uncover unresolved issues as well as newer, younger teams that can go the distance with them. One of the things the film does very well is the chemistry between the cast is fantastic. Since most of these actors are former NBA players who either played together or at the same time as one another, all of them are familiar with one another and are able to act off of one another very easily. If you are a fan of basketball, there are a lot of inside jokes and meta humor that you would have to know about from the real world, and while people who do not follow basketball may not enjoy those jokes very much, those who do follow basketball will find them very funny. I was also surprised with how much I enjoyed Webber’s performance. I have not seen Webber act in anything before, and not only did he have one of the more interesting roles in the film, but he also had two of the funniest jokes in the movie, so good on him for standing out so much. Supporting characters such as Kroll and Tiffany Haddish thrive in their roles, especially Kroll who seems to have the goofy, over-the-top antagonist role down to an art by now. Where the film suffers though is the story and direction are an absolute mess. Multiple plot points are either glossed over for a few moments or just outright ignored, which makes it hard to care about any of the characters or their actions. I know the film is supposed to be light and fun, but it also needs to make sense too. Other than that, I was disappointed with how certain scenes are included exclusively to show unnecessary physical humor. For example, there is a dance scene where the elderly basketball players dance off against younger people in a club, but this scene goes on for more than five minutes. There is absolutely no point to this scene to exist, as it accomplishes nothing that is not accomplished in other parts of the movie. It does not show the these older men can still hang with the younger crowd, because the basketball tournament is evidence enough of that. I guess it was there to further the romantic plotline between Dax and Maya (Erica Ash), but there had to have been a better way to do that. I have enjoyed some of Stone’s films in the past, Drumline in particular is one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies, but the magic of that movie is not captured in the same style in Uncle Drew.
Overall, Uncle Drew accomplishes most of what it sets out to do, but that does not mean it does not have significant structural problems. This film definitely caters to its intended audience, and as someone who finds themselves in that intended audience, I enjoyed moments of it but know that the film could have been better. I was ultimately surprised with how funny Irving was, as the bloopers showed how he can ad-lib with seasoned comedians when they mess up their lines. This film also answered the question that I never knew I wanted answered, I never want to see Shaq’s naked butt ever again. While the film is generally harmless, Uncle Drew could have improved with a little bit of better writing, because the acting and chemistry were all there.
Overall Score: 4.5/10