Review: Uncle Drew

Back in 2012, Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star PG Kyrie wore old man prosthetics and a wig for a Pepsi ad. That ad was the beginning of Uncle Drew, an old man who randomly shows up at basketball courts for pickup games.

Six years later, Kyrie is playing Uncle Drew in a full length film about loving the game of basketball, friendship, and family.

Get Out’s Lil Rel Howery plays Dax, the coach of team competing in the annual Rucker Park Classic. Dax plans on using the $100,000 winnings from the tournament to start a family with his shopaholic girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish). After losing his team to rival coach Mookie (Nick Kroll), Dax stumbles upon the myth/legend Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving). Uncle Drew agrees to play for Dax’s team if he can run with his old teammates. Drew’s old man Rucker team consists of Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal), Preacher (Chris Webber), Lights (Reggie Miller), and Boots (Nate Robinson).

Dax, Drew, and the guys work together to defeat Mookie’s team and win the Rucker.

For a character that started as gag for a Pepsi ad, Uncle Drew is a very well made comedy – Kyrie plays the straight man to all of Lil Rel’s comedic antics, Erica Ash plays Maya the new love interest, Tiffany Haddish is the annoying ex-girlfriend, and Nick Kroll is the over-the-top villain. There’s a bunch of self deprecating basketball jokes to provide humor  and Lil Rel uses his comedic skills to fill the rest of the time.

It’s unclear how much acting Kyrie’s done in his past but he’s legitimately good. He’s wearing a pile of prosthetics on his face, playing basketball, and still able to pull off every comedic or emotional moment his character has. There’s a 26 year old Kyrie Irving buried under the mold and makeup but it feels like you’re watching Uncle Drew, not Kyrie dressed as Uncle Drew.

The big surprise performance in the film comes courtesy of Chris Webber. He’s shockingly good with his comedic timing and does a fantastic job selling Lil Rel’s jokes. The running joke about his possessive wife (played by Lisa Leslie) is one of the funnier bits.

The film’s craziest character is Nick Kroll as Mookie. It’s the kind of character a comedic actor like Kroll can play. He’s an internet troll come to life mixed with a rich kid living his basketball dreams through other people. Kroll gives Mookie the perfect balance between annoyance and amusing.

Most of the film is a road trip to pick up Drew’s teammates, a few flashbacks, and tons of exposition. Most of the basketball scenes are in the final act once the tournament starts. There are few very funny basketball related jokes. The joke on Webber is the biggest laugh-out-loud moment in the film.

Plenty of people will write about how Uncle Drew is “funny for a basketball movie”, blah blah blah. It’s just a funny comedy, period.  It doesn’t need any qualifiers. The casts is funny, the jokes are well written, the old man make up is funny. It’s impossible to sit through this movie and not come away with a few really hard laughs.  It is unimaginable that a six year old Pepsi ad and a cast of athletes turned actors made Uncle Drew the best spoarts comedy in years – yet, here we are. Sign me up for a sequel with Drew playing in the Olympics.

Grade: B