Film Review: “Uncle Drew”


Starring:  Kyrie Irving, Lil Rel Howery and Shaquille O’Neal
Directed by:  Charles Stone III
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hour 43 mins
Lionsgate

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Lew Alcindor.  Nate Archibald.  Wilt Chamberlain.  Dr. J.

All of these basketball legends got their start by playing in Rucker Park in New York City.  But they all pale in comparison to the greatest streetball player ever…Uncle Drew.

Our story begins on the famous basketball court as it is being prepared for the 50th Anniversary Tournament.  Dax (Howery) is the coach of a team entered and he’s got a secret weapon – a big man named Casper (Aaron Gordon).  Dax goes out of his way to let Casper know he is loved, not wanting to lose him to a flashier (or better) coach.  Dax was, at one time, a promising basketball player, but an incident during a championship game, when a potential game-winning shot was blocked, his round-ball Karma hasn’t been very good.  And it gets worse when his girlfriend kicks him out and Casper runs to a team coached by Mookie (an obnoxious Nick Kroll).  At his wits end, Dax has a chance run-in with the infamous Uncle Drew.  He convinces him to get his original team together to play for chance to be the champs.  Go Moneys!

I don’t know why, but basketball players make good actors.  Michael Jordan in “Space Jam.”  Ray Allen in “He Got Game.”  Kareem Abdul Jabbar in “Airplane.”  Lebron James in “Trainwreck.”  Now you can add to the list current Boston Celtic Kyrie Irving.  Playing a character 40-plus years older than he is, Irving gives a strong, soulful performance.  And he is joined by fellow former superstars Chris Webber, Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Aloysius Miller (for some reason, whenever I speak of Reggie Miller I like using his full name), Nate Robinson and Lisa Leslie.  On the non-athletic side Howery, who was so good as the TSA employed pal in “Get Out,” continues his good performance streak here.

But the film is about more than basketball.  It’s about family and friendship, and when those values are discussed the film jumps to another level.  And basketball fans in the know will enjoy the humor (C. Webb’s character is reminded often that there are no “time outs” left, Shaq gets to call a fellow teammate that hogs the ball “Kobe”).  What I found funniest was that, even though past great players like Michael Jordan are referred to often, there is not one mention of Irving’s former teammate, Lebron James.  An error of omission or a quiet dig?  Either way, it’s funny.

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