What would happen if you took a humorous Pepsi ad and turned it into a feature-length film? That is the question that Uncle Drew attempts to answer in a cool and surprisingly funny 1 hour and 40 minutes. The film is based on a Pepsi ‘mini-series’ of commercials in which Kyrie Irving, dressed as an elderly man, plays a game of basketball with a younger crowd. The ads are slightly different in nature - they're focused on the magic of watching Irving on the court - but still carry a humorous tone throughout.
The success of these ads led Pepsi, along with director Charles Stone III, to turn the concept into a fully fleshed out film. The plot centers around Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a hapless Footlocker employee with a deep love of basketball. On the side, he’s also an amateur basketball coach and is training his team to participate in a tournament at Harlem’s Rucker Park. When his arch-nemesis Mookie (a crude but funny Nick Kroll) swoops in and steals his team - and his girl, played by the ever-hilarious Tiffany Haddish - Dax needs to come up with a Plan B to stay in the game. That’s where Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) comes in.
What ensues next is a fun road trip to go find and enlist Uncle Drew’s old teammates for their dream team - and by old, we mean old. The team is portrayed by basketball powerhouses like Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and Shaquille O’Neal, an assortment of NBA giants anyone would kill to watch on the court. Of course, the real hilarity lies in watching them put the moves out while wearing several layers of makeup and prosthetics, an endeavor they are able to pull off quite impressively.
What works about Uncle Drew is that it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. Its plot is simple at best and predictable at worst. It’s not a thought-provoking and life-changing film. It wants to give viewers what many will go to the theatre looking for: a feeling of connecting with people they admire. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to see the lovable Shaq as an aging kung fu instructor breakdancing on the dance floor? Even if you were never a huge basketball fan, you could definitely get in on this joke.
For those who are basketball fans, they will find this film even more of a treat. Uncle Drew makes viewers feel like they are in on some sort of inside joke with the characters in the movie and, throughout the film, they touch upon some of each player’s real-life weaknesses, and frequently reference details from pop culture. In that sense, the film is able to delight viewers by nodding towards a base of shared knowledge. Recognizing these references, I’ll admit, made the movie that much more fun to watch.
Of course, Uncle Drew is not a great film - it’s essentially a walking ad for Pepsi (and plenty of other products), and the resolution of the film is evident within the first ten minutes. But in the end, that’s all okay. It’s not really an original film, but it’s funny and straightforward enough for viewers to have an enjoyable night out at the movies. If you’re looking for a movie to make you laugh, and especially if you’re a fan of basketball, this is certainly a good pick for your Friday night.
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