Summit Entertainment presents NBA superstar Kyrie Irving in his acting debut with Uncle Drew, from director Charles Stone III. In 2012, Irving began advertising the character of Uncle Drew in an endorsement deal with Pepsi Max. With the character of Uncle Drew proving to be so popular, a feature film was bound to happen.
After draining his life savings to enter a team in the Rucker Classic streetball tournament in Harlem, Dax (Lil Rel Howery) is hit with a series of unfortunate setbacks, including losing his team and longtime girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish) to his longtime rival Mookie (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 coaxes Drew to return to the court one more time.
The two men embark on a road trip to round up Drew’s old basketball squad, which include Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal), Preacher (Chris Webber), Lights (Reggie Miller), Boots (Nate Robinson), and Preacher’s wife Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie). The team, known as Harlem Money, is on a mission to prove that a group of septuagenarians can still win the Rucker Classic.
I initially walked into Uncle Drew with minimal expectations, as I didn’t think that a movie centered on product placement would transition well to the big screen. I was also skeptical of Kyrie Irving’s ability to carry a feature film, as he has no acting experience at all. To my surprise, Uncle Drew is one of the summer movie season’s biggest surprises with its heartwarming story and fantastic basketball sequences. Irving has a natural screen presence and does a great job with his first lead role.
Jay Longinro’s script for Uncle Drew opens with a witty 30 For 30 mockumentary which features some great cameos from basketball legends, which I won’t spoil here. All of whom spoke on the Phenom known as “Uncle Drew.” It was a wise choice, as it allows our audience to know just how great of a player Drew is. I also enjoyed seeing some of the legends speak, and I’m sure that it will inspire conversation between die-hard basketball fans and their kids, who may not know who some of the players featured in the opening montage. Longino’s script also features numerous Meta references, including a hilarious joke that involves Chris Weber’s character of Preacher and timeouts.
The chemistry between Drew and his teammates comes across as natural and unforced, and all of the athletes do well. Lil Rel Howery also does commendable work as the second male lead. As Dax, Howery showed me that he can carry a feature and that he can juggle comedy as well a drama. Nick Kroll was enjoyable as well in the role of Mookie, our antagonist. I enjoyed Kroll’s performance so much. I wouldn’t mind seeing him take on another villain role.
Stone’s direction of the basketball sequences was also very impressive. Whether it’s a practice sequence or an actual game, Stone’s direction pulled me into the game. I also enjoyed Stone showcasing all of the player’s equally as opposed to focusing solely on Irving’s character.
My only complaint with Uncle Drew was the under usage of Tiffany Haddish’s character. Given that 2017 was Haddish’s breakout year, I thought she would have more to do, but her character arc was a bit weak for my tastes. Haddish had great chemistry with Lil Rel Howery in previous projects, but here their chemistry seemed forced.
Uncle Drew may not win any awards, but the film knows what it is…a lighthearted comedy that the family can enjoy. With impressive performances and heart, Uncle Drew is a winner of a movie.
Final Grade B+