07th Jul2018

‘Uncle Drew’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Kyrie Irving, Lil Rel Howery, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, Lisa Leslie, Erica Ash, Tiffany Haddish, Nick Kroll, Aaron Gordon, Mike Epps, J.B. Smoove, Wesley Witherspoon, Thomas Mills | Written by Jay Longino | Directed by Charles Stone III

Uncle-Drew-UK-poster

Apparently based on a series of Pepsi commercials (or as they like to call it, a “digital series”), Uncle Drew features a standout cast of NBA talent, including Shaquille O’Neil, Nate Robinson, Reggie Miller, and Chris Webber, alongside WNBA legend Lisa Leslie, all hiding under copious amounts of make-up – the joke being that these are real basketball stars playing old men… And that’s essentially the extent of the films marketing: “Wouldn’t it be funny to see NBA stars playing old men in make-up and beating younger players?” It’s a very fine thread on to which to hang a film. Especially here in the UK, where not only does the sport not have a huge following but also we never got to see the ads on which the film is based!

Which probably also explains why the film has been dumped into cinemas during the World Cup, a time when Disney refuses to release Ant-Man and the Wasp for fear no one will go and watch it. I guess Lionsgate UK had no faith in the film in the first place..? Which is the complete opposite of the situation in the US, where you couldn’t watch TV without seeing ads every hour for the film and cinemas were packed with posters and standees promoting the movie. So if Lionsgate had no faith in Uncle Drew, should audiences?

In a word, yes.

Uncle Drew follws Dax (Lil Rel Howery) who, after draining his life savings to enter a team in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem, 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 (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.

OK, so that plot is just a simple as the concept, but bear with me. You see, whilst the filmmakers could have relied on the sheer spectacle of seeing five old guys out-play a bunch of youngsters and played their ages for laughs, they instead crafted a story that tugs on the emotional heartstrings a lot more than the funnybone. That’s not to say this isn’t a comedy, after all this is a movie that has jokes, visual gags, and ageist comedy a plenty but Uncle Drew is also a film about family, self-respect and redemption and it’s those aspects of the story that make this film so enjoyable.

So yes, audiences should have faith in Uncle Drew – as much faith as Dax has in the character during the course of the film – it’s a movie that trancends its origins to create a funny, family-friendly flick that, thanks to its morally-inspiring script, turns out to be THE feel good film of the Summer.

**** 4/5

Uncle Drew is in UK cinemas now.

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