Plot: In the realm of street basketball, there is no more presitigious event than the legendary Rucker Classic and for Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a championship win is his only option. He has invested his life savings into entering the tournament, while putting together a team that has a real chance and is led by one of the best players in the current street scene. But his rival Mookie (Nick Kroll) has won the last several Rucker Classic crowns and when he steals away Dax’s star player, it sends Dax off the deep end and in a desperate situation. Rather than give up and lose it all, he reaches out to a street ball legend known as Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) after Drew puts on a clinic in an on the spot demonstration of his talents. But Drew is an old man now and his team is all over the place, so can Dax somehow reunite the squad, help them overcome their issues, and coach these old timers to one last big win?
Entertainment Value: Uncle Drew is no comedy classic, but for a movie based on a television commercial, it isn’t half bad. I have to think basketball fanatics will get the most out of this one, as the narrative centers on the sport, the cast includes mostly basketball personalities, and the humor is packed with in jokes and references to the game. That doesn’t mean you need to be a sports nut to appreciate Uncle Drew, but a little knowledge will add a lot of laughs. But there is also a good amount of more general humor, with a lot of banter between characters, sight gags, and old people jokes, in addition to the basketball material. The narrative is more or less the familiar sports underdog trope, but taken to ridiculous levels, with an elderly basketball team going up against young bucks. The tone here is slapstick and the movie never takes itself seriously in the least, so it just offers a chain of outlandish scenarios populated with colorful, silly characters, hoping to make you laugh. The dialogue was the highlight for me, as the performers have good chemistry and the banter is over the top, so that leads some solid fun. I had more fun with Uncle Drew than I expected, so fans of basketball or light comedies should give it a spin.
The cast here doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of thespian skills, but the mix of comedians and basketball personalities are enthusiastic and embrace the silliness, which is about all you can ask in this case. Lil Rey Howery has the central role, but he is by far the least entertaining performer. He has been in other movies, but finds himself put to shame by non actors and less experienced costars. Howery stumbles over even simple dialogue and comes across as way too forced, which means guys in crappy old age makeup manage to outshine him with ease. Tiffany Haddish dials up the drama in her role, while Nick Kroll turns in a run of the mill douche character, but a decent enough villain to root against. The basketball stars are fine and compensate for lack of acting skills with engaged, energetic performances. Shaq really runs with his role, while Reggie Miller, Lisa Leslie, Chris Webber, and Nate Robinson round out the ballers, with Mike Epps and J.B. Smoove in small roles as well.