Since I’ve had a DVR for the last 20 years, I have not watched commercials and therefore did not know that Uncle Drew was based on a series of Pepsi commercials. It just as easily could have been a high concept comedy, but the source material sort of informs the film’s shortcomings.
The fake 30 for 30 that introduces Uncle Drew is the funniest part of the movie, and it’s just okay. The NBA logo joke made me giggle, and the way real NBA stars give testimonials about the legendary Uncle Drew and the personal drama that tore his team apart.
In the present, Dax Winslow (Lil Rel Howery) is trying to coach Casper Johns (Aaron Gordon) to win the Rucker 50 basketball tournament. When Dax’s rival Mookie Bass (Nick Kroll) snipes Casper away, Dax discovers Drew (Kyrie Irving) as an old man schooling young punks on the court.
Dax convinces Drew to recruit his old teammates and win the Rucker 50. Each old timer is played by an NBA star in old age makeup.
A road trip sports comedy certainly has the makings of a fun time. There just aren’t enough laughs and there is no reason for this comedy to be over 90 minutes.
Uncle Drew is a little better as a heartwarming sports movie, but it still falls short there. Drew talks about basketball as a metaphor for stability, but the movie never shows how the game provides that, and in fact seems to show the opposite.
There’s no dramatic build to the underdog triumphs. Everything is a quick fix that was barely layered into the script before the scene in which it comes to bear.
Lights (Reggie Miller) is practically blind but gets new goggles so he’s good. They do mention Boots (Nate Robinson)’s shoes so that sort of mildly explains how he can play ball again.
Preacher (Chris Webber)’s issue is a controlling wife Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie) pursuing him on this trip. Only Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal) has a legitimate issue with Drew and it’s addressed, if only dealt with sparingly.
They don’t train. They don’t even have to get back on the bicycle (that’s a metaphor) after not playing for decades. They just play again.
Howery has the endearing charisma to lead a comedy, but even his clever improv can’t hold this disjointed script together. The good news for him is he has a Fox sitcom premiering in the fall which can potentially be a much better vehicle for him.
Drew is a good character and Irving plays him well as a mentor and leader. Irving is convincing as an old man with a limp, who only gets spry and flexible on the court. It’s a shame the movie doesn’t do more with that juxtaposition.
Oh, they have a dance off too. What are the rules even?
I don’t want to say that making a movie out of a Pepsi commercial was a bad idea, because I believe it could be done. I mean, Ernest made nine movies, but Uncle Drew is no Ernest P. Worrell.
Uncle Drew is in theaters Friday, June 29.