Reel Reviews | Uncle Drew

by Monica Hayes

Six years ago a simple Pepsi commercial turned into several YouTube shorts and has now blossomed into a full feature film. Charles Stone’s Uncle Drew is this summer’s sleeper breakout comedy.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Rucker Classic and Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a salesman at Foot Locker, has been haunted of childhood and current failures ever since his shot was blocked by the “white boy” Mookie (Nick Kroll).  Determined to regain his self-respect, he sunk his entire savings to enter his team Harlem Money into the Classic for a chance to win $100,000. 00 grand prize.

Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned.  After giving his star player Casper (Aaron Gordon) and his boys the newest shoe to hit the streets, he loses his team, his girl Jess (Tiffany Haddish) and his home to longtime rival Mookie all in the same day.  To make matters worse, there is a video of him trying to take back the shoes he gave Casper that made it SportsCenter.

While in the barbershop, he overhears Angelo (J.B. Smoove) and the rest of the fellas talking about old school ballplayers.  The one name that kept coming up was Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving).  Determined to salvage his team, he seeks out Drew and tries to convince him to come back to play the Rucker.  Drew agrees on one condition: his team, his roster.  Dax agrees and it was time to hit the road and get Drew’s old teammates back together.  The only problem, the team hasn’t spoken, let alone played with one another in the last 35 years.  One by one, each member is picked up: the power forward, Preacher (Chris Webber), the shooter, Lights (Reggie Miller), center, Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal) and the wheelchair-bound shooting guard, Boots (Nate Robinson).  We can’t forget Preacher’s wife, Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie) who is adamant about Preacher NOT playing ball anymore.   Once the team is together, let the shenanigans and ballin’ begin.  It’s time to get Buckets!

Drew is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination.  We’ve seen the “We getting the band back together” shtick before with the Blues Brothers and more recently with Red.  We’ve also seen the story of the underdog trying to exorcise his past demons and restore his dignity, and the old guy who realizes he made lots of mistakes in the past and is ready to atone for them.  Even with that, Drew is still a hit.

Howery did an ok job playing Dax.  He didn’t hurt the movie, but he didn’t help it either.  At times it seemed like he was more of supporting role than the reason why Uncle Drew and the crew got back on the blacktop.  From Kroll’s Mookie constantly mocking him, to Drew and his boys straight clowning him it seemed like he was only there to be the butt of every joke.  Speaking of jokes, there are hella jokes and jabs thrown throughout the entire movie.  The laughs hit you from the beginning and kept going until the end.  Everyone is on joke time.  One of my favorites is when Drew tells Preacher they are out of timeouts.  If you are a sports fan, you will get it.  Trust, you will be on the floor with tears rolling down your face. LOL

We all know that many athletes are TERRIBLE at interviews and public speaking let alone putting them in front of a camera to act.  I can run down the list of terrible acting from Shaq in Kazaam, and Steel, to Jordan, Barkley, Mullens, Ewing etc. in Space Jam.  However, the acting in Drew was surprisingly well done.  Irving has played alter-ego Uncle Drew since 2012 and for the past six years, he has perfected this character to the point where you believe he Drew an actual old dude out there schooling “young bloods” on the nature and love of the game.  The chemistry between them was effortless like they were just out having a good time playing basketball, talking smack.  Halfway through the movie, you completely forget these guys (and girl) were made up to look like they were in their early to mid-60’s playing basketball.

What is a Rucker Park Classic tournament movie without talking about basketball and the legends that made it was it is today?  During the opening sequence, we see Pee Wee Kirkland, Bill Russell, Earl Monroe etc., and videos of past games talking about how they made a difference in the lives of the kids in Harlem.  Especially, how Uncle Drew was an important figure during that time.  The imagery will take you back to your childhood when neighborhoods would compete to see who the best was. That was when the game was REAL. Take your hits, get up and play. If you weren’t bleeding, there was no foul. Straight shit talking, head-faking, between the legs passing basketball.  Not what we see nowadays with these high dollar crybabies in the NBA.

Overall, Uncle Drew is this year’s sleeper. It’s funny and was way better than I thought it would be.

Grade B