In the most enjoyable basketball movie since Space Jam, summer’s latest hit comedy Uncle Drew features an all-star cast, side-splitting jokes and…Shaquille O’Neal’s butt. What more could we ask for in a sports comedy?
Sure, Uncle Drew isn’t going to win an Oscar or redefine basketball culture across the globe, but it certainly makes for a fun night out. Despite a rather predictable plot in which a group of wacky elderly men revive their love of basketball to play in Harlem’s prized Rucker’s Park tournament, the film manages to hit all the right notes to give viewers a great time.
Starting with a hilarious documentary-style intro chock-full of sports super-celebs, we learn about Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving), a 1960s-era basketball legend in Harlem, New York. Since his disappearance the night before a big tournament, the local street basketball scene knew of him only through fables detailing his out-of-this world ball skills.
Fast forward to the present: Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a down-on-his luck amateur coach, is attempting to push his team through to the finals of the tournament to win a $100,000 prize and change his life (and keep his girlfriend happy). After being bested by his childhood nemesis Mookie (Nick Kroll), who steals his team right out from under him, he ventures on a search for new players and bumps into Uncle Drew. The former legend is now a park-dwelling, sweatpants-wearing, funk-loving old man with a tendency to call everyone “youngblood”. After watching him stun onlookers with some truly insane skills only a NBA star like Irving could pull off, Dax sets his sights on recruiting Uncle Drew for the tournament. The pair set off across the tri-state area to assemble their roster of unlikely heroes: Preacher (Chris Webber), an eccentric Baptist minister; Lights (Reggie Miller), who is now legally blind; Boots (Nate Robinson), a depressed, wheelchair-bound senior; and Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal), a dojo master. The inclusion of WNBA icon Lisa Leslie, who comes in to save the day with her legendary shots and oh-so-satisfying defence against the rivals, is a lovely, much-needed nod to women in sports that allows for a more well-rounded narrative.
A hysterically funny church number, a wild car chase scene and failed practice game later, the team begins to shake the dust off and find their drive once again. The only thing stunting their abilities is the rift between Uncle Drew and his former teammate Big Fella, who have bad blood between them since Drew betrayed him with his girlfriend during their golden years. After many attempts to bond again, Big Fella finally gets the apology he needed on the Rucker’s Park court after decades of holding a grudge. That is the turning point that enables the players to finally work as a team again.
The Uncle Drew character found its origins in a series of Pepsi Max adverts from 2012, but thankfully the movie is relatively free of blatant product-pushing. Instead, the commercial-turned-feature film focuses on NBA superstars with rubbery special effect makeup, sending a message that surprisingly hits viewers right in the heartstrings. Reminiscent of the comfortable safety of 90s sports movies, all 103 minutes of Uncle Drew make for good, clean fun – a factor that Hollywood has been missing for years.
Uncle Drew is released nationwide on 6th July 2018.
Watch the trailer for Uncle Drew here: