The goals of a film are an essential part in determining whether it is a success. Not every movie sets out to win an Oscar. Not every movie sets out to make an audience understand a deep-seated societal ill. Some movies are just plain fun, and to this last category can be added the new feature, “Uncle Drew.”
Directed by Charles Stone III with a script from Jay Longino, “Uncle Drew” brings the title character played by Kyrie Irving in a series of digital ads from Pepsi to the big screen (some of the elements of the digital stuff will be familiar to audiences here, while some is quite different). As the relatively shallow tale goes, Drew is convinced to bring his former squad out of retirement so they can play in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem for Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a Foot Locker employee who has lost his squad and his girlfriend, Jess (Tiffany Haddish) to a rival, Mookie (Nick Kroll) at the last minute. Having already spent the cash to enter the tournament, Dax is desperate and Drew is his last hope, even if it at first appears to be a dim one.
Do not worry about why Drew would partake in such an endeavor, or how Dax and Drew manage to drive thousands of miles in the amount of time they do; or the various impediments Drew’s teammates—Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal), Preacher (Chris Webber), Lights (Reggie Miller), and Boots (Nate Robinson)—face in playing in the tournament; or how Preacher’s wife, Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie), does the amount of driving she does if she won’t get on the highway. It is not those things aren’t relevant, it’s just that “Uncle Drew” succeeds when the audience doesn’t stop to question them.
In fact, the movie is at its best when it doesn’t bother to try to offer any sort of emotional or serious beats. These elements of the story are awkward and hollow. They feel entirely forced and “Uncle Drew” would be better off without them.
While all of this might indicate that the movie is less than good, here’s the thing –Irving, Shaq, Miller, Robinson, Webber, and Leslie can play basketball. Even in heavy makeup and prosthetics they can play basketball. Watching them play ball in their various disguises makes it that much more amusing.
Beyond that, the cast is also more than funny enough to generate laughs in this film off the court as well. A dance off sequence between youngsters at a club and Uncle Drew’s squad is great. There is an infectious enthusiasm amongst the cast which helps sell the whole thing, not just in the club scene, but across the board.
It is entirely clear from the start of the affair where this movie is going to end up, but the journey is absolutely worth it. The makeup and hair succeeds in making one accept that these are a group of senior citizens, even if their basketball skills belie the notion.
There is absolutely no doubt that people who go to see this movie with a love of basketball or sports films or underdog stories are going to leave with a smile on their face. “Uncle Drew” will not win an Oscar, but its marriage of “The Blues Brothers” to basketball make this an underdog tale that will undoubtedly please.
photo credit: Lionsgate