Review – NBA legends wear old make-up in unfunny ‘Uncle Drew’

Poster for 2018 sport comedy Uncle Drew

Genre: Comedy
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 6th July 2018
Runtime: 103 minutes
Director: Charles Stone III
Writer: Jay Longino
Starring: Kyrie Irving, Lil Rel Howery, Chris Webber, Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Lisa Leslie, Nate Robinson, Nick Kroll, Tiffany Haddish
Synopsis: An ambitious streetball coach teams up with an elderly legend of the sport, and his equally decrepit friends and teammates, in an attempt to win a famous tournament.



Some strange things are adapted into movies nowadays. We’ve had recent films based around board games, action figures and smartphone apps – as well as emojis – proving that nothing is off limits. Uncle Drew, however, represents perhaps the weirdest excess of the barrel-scraping search for movie ideas. This is not just an underdog sport comedy, but it’s an underdog sport comedy adapted from a series of Pepsi Max adverts. Olympic gold medallist and NBA star Kyrie Irving reprises his role from those commercials as the eponymous streetball legend, getting back on the court to relive his glory days.

In the film, he is drawn from retirement by streetball coach and wannabe player Dax (Get Out scene stealer Lil Rel Howery) in order to be the lynchpin of Dax’s team, after his former star player is nicked by rival Mookie (Nick Kroll). In case viewers were in any doubt as to Mookie’s evil, he also nicks Dax’s girlfriend, played by Tiffany Haddish, trying harder than anyone has ever tried in a movie before. Drew promptly goes about reassembling his old basketball buddies for one last hurrah, including the incredibly unimaginatively named duo of Preacher (Chris Webber) and Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal).

It’s not just that Uncle Drew is a desperately unfunny comedy movie. The central problem with the film is that the very basis of its appeal is entirely incomprehensible. It might be that fans of basketball will have a great time looking at idols of the sport slathered in old age make-up and prosthetics, but as a non-fan, all I could see was dismal jabs at humour interspersed with endless product placement, not only for the fizzy drink brand behind the project, but also for a famous car rental company.

That’s not to say that it’s all bad because the performers are clearly having a good time. Everyone is dialled right up to 11, with the exception of Howery, who is really under-served by this after his comedic breakout in a movie that ultimately won an Oscar. He is essentially consigned to the role of straight man, while everyone else larks about playing basketball and doing old man voices. Nobody, though, is having as much fun as Nick Kroll, digging deep into a role that is as cartoonishly villainous as it’s possible to get without an animated moustache to twirl.

Despite the best efforts of the actors involved, there’s very little about Uncle Drew that works. The underdog narrative is a generic one, albeit peppered with wildly unusual set pieces, and there’s little that ever surprises about the movie, other than the egregiously obvious moments of product placement. Basketball fans might find it to be a clear slam dunk, but those who aren’t familiar with their NBA history might be better off leaving this well alone. Unless you’re a big fan of Pepsi.


Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

There’s a lot of fun to be had with the central idea of Uncle Drew, but the movie is so incompetent and unusual that it’s never able to have any of that fun. The performances are committed and silly from all involved, though they’re hamstrung by a lame script and an armada of brand logos filling every shot.


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