Uncle Drew (12A)

Comedy (2018)
103mins US

Starring: Shaquille O'Neal, Kyrie Irving, Lil Rey Howery
Director: Charles Stone III
Writer(s): Jay Longino
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Dax is determined to win the coveted Rucker Classic street basketball tournament and he assembles a crack squad of local players to snag the cash first prize. The competition's hefty entry fee depletes Dax's savings - then to add insult, sworn rival Mookie steals Dax's team. Standing on the brink of financial ruin, Dax tracks down one-time street basketball legend, Uncle Drew, who is in his 70s. Against his better judgment, Drew agrees to return to the court for one final hurrah.

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LondonNet Film Review
Uncle Drew (12A)

In 2012, professional basketball player Kyrie Irving aged five decades with the help of latex, stage make-up and a white wig to portray street smart Uncle Drew in a TV commercial for a sugar-free soft drink. The wise-cracking old coot became a popular figure of age-defying fun across the Atlantic, pranking cocksure players on the basketball court with a spring in his supposedly arthritic step and a twinkle in his eye. Worldly experience also defies reason in the big screen debut of Uncle Drew, a feature-length sports comedy directed by Charles Stone III, which dunks almost as many punchlines as it misses in a haphazard script penned by Jay Longino...

Uncle Drew. Copyright: Lionsgate Films. Caption: Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew in Uncle Drew, directed by Charles Stone III. Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert. All Rights Reserved.The film employs a familiar structure - fearless underdogs put their hearts on the line in pursuit of glory - to expand on the cross-generational bonding of the small screen advertisements, replete with brazen product placement. When Uncle Drew stumbles, the results are painful but the sincerity of Irving's performance coupled with colourful supporting turns from fellow sport stars including Shaquille O'Neal secures Stone's uneven picture a narrow victory against tedium. The unlikely hero is emotionally scarred basketball fan Dax (Lil Rel Howery), who hopes to win the coveted Rucker Classic street basketball tournament with a crew led by star player Casper (Aaron Gordon).

The competition's entry fee depletes Dax's savings but he is convinced that he already has one hand on the 10,000 US dollar first prize. Materialistic girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish) excitedly spends her half of the winnings before the competition has even begun. Fierce rival Mookie (Nick Kroll) steals Dax's well-drilled team and his girl, leaving the crestfallen loner on the brink of financial ruin. Elders in the community advise Dax to track down one-time street basketball legend Uncle Drew (Irving). The retired hoop master agrees to return to the court on the condition that he can reunite former team mates Big Fella (Shaquille O'Neal), Boots (Nate Robinson), Lights (Reggie Miller) and Preacher (Chris Webber). The odds are stacked against the septuagenarians but Drew never shies away from a fight because, as he reminds Dax, "You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don't take".

Uncle Drew is an amiable journey of self-discovery that doesn't deviate from a well-trodden path of cliches and dewy-eyed sentimentality. Howery is an instantly likeable ringleader, who must overcome a high school trauma neatly described as "the ghost of white boy past" to achieve his headline-grabbing destiny. Romance with Boots's granddaughter (Erica Ash) is surplus to requirements but sparks a simmering on-screen rivalry with Haddish, who was hysterical in Girls Trip and tries without success to polish her character's rapid-fire dialogue here to a similar lustre. Some of the out-takes, which play over the end credits, should have been left on the cutting room floor.

- Kim Hu

Uncle Drew. Copyright: Lionsgate Films. Caption: Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew in Uncle Drew, directed by Charles Stone III. Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert. All Rights Reserved.

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