Movie Beat: “Uncle Drew” strictly for basketball fans
By Jenniffer Wardell
Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, language and brief nudity
Written by Jay Longino
Directed by Charles Stone III
Starring Kyrie Irving, Lil Rel Howery, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, Lisa Leslie, Tiffany Haddish, Nick Kroll and more
Grade: One and a half stars
I feel like “Uncle Drew” is what would happen if you gave a bunch of basketball players a phone with a nice video app, a couple of old-age masks, and sent them to a park down the street and asked them to film a movie.
The results are… well, about like what you’d expect from the above scenario. A well-meaning, thuddingly simplistic love letter to basketball, “Uncle Drew” has a lot of heart but is meant for a very specific audience. If you love basketball, or basketball players, then the movie’s deep and abiding love for the sport will make it a slam dunk. If you’re anyone else on the planet, then you’ll probably want to sit this game out.
The movie follows Dax (Lil Rel Howery), who is trying to get a team together for a big street basketball tournament but is struggling against a childhood rival who killed his basketball dreams early. When the star player he’d found abandons his team for a rival, Dax must find a mythical, elderly street ball player named Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) and his former teammates if he wants a chance at victory.
The fact that all of the old men are famous basketball players in old age makeup (including Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, and Reggie Miller) tells you everything you need to know about the movie. If you recognize more than one of those names, then you’re set. If you recognize Lisa Leslie (who plays one of the old men’s wives) from the WNBA, then you should probably get extra points.
You’ll also be in a prime position to appreciate the movie’s message, which is a deep and abiding love for basketball. Uncle Drew waxes rhapsodic about the sport at various points, a lovely utopian vision that embraces the power and beauty of teamwork, and if you love the sport you might actually tear up.
If you love quality screenwriting, however, you might end up crying for the opposite reason. The script is so simplistic it seems like something I’d expect to see out of a high school creative writing class (and even then, I might be insulting the high school students). The scene where we find out Dax is an orphan was so cartoonish it would have only fit in a parody.
The few moments of grace the movie has exists solely on the court. If you’re looking for more than that, you’ve got to go somewhere else.