If you were to combine two films such as “Like Mike 2” and “The Longest Yard,” you would get “Uncle Drew.” The Pepsi commercial turned feature film is balling its way around theaters and doing so successfully, and it's getting its fair share of praises from critics and audiences alike. To be fair, critics are giving this film a pass based on its sheer innocence and family-friendly appeal and to their point, “Uncle Drew” is precisely that, a genuine comedy that is not meant to offend but to entertain. While I could sit back and give it a pass myself, there is far too much laziness and sappy attempts with its emotional aspects for me to just let it walk by unscathed.
It’s a film that is dragging a ridiculous gimmick too far, what should’ve been a thirty-minute short film for TV, is a near two-hour feature-length comedy that includes car chases, old versus young basketball matchups, and a dance-off of course. It's meant to make little to no fuss, something for us to sit back and watch mindlessly. I am not such a film attendee though, that’s why when the story of Dax (Lil Rey Howery from “Get Out,” who also self references that film in this movie), an orphan whose love for the game of basketball carried him through life until he missed a game-winning shot in a big game, begins to be told by screenwriter Jay Longino, I roll my eyes.
Not to mention, the on-going tale of the old Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) getting the band back together on this drama turned road trip movie. Trying to be Dax's (Lil Rey Howery) saving grace when he loses everything from money to his gold-digger of a girlfriend, getting the old team back together to play at the Rucker streetball tournament. Watching the shenanigans that follow is not exactly worth my while.
It all feels so simple, so lazy, but what should expect from a movie starring basketball legends in old-man makeup? I suppose a shred of creativity, which does appear with Lil Rel Howery. Admittedly his funniest moments are in the blooper reel, but he does have a few great jokes to give us. As well as the inside basketball jokes made by our player, which gave me a grin or two. There is effort and talent to be found, but it's covered up by the wrinkles of laziness by director Charles Stone III (“Drumline” & “Mr. 3000).
He’s no stranger to these underdog overcoming the odds kind of sports tales, but his past displays are nothing worth beating his chest over. In some ways though, that lackadaisical mentality allows the film to roll in and out of thought, like an airball flying past the hope with little to no hope of actually scoring.
The way he directs the film is tacky and expectedly mundane, and the way he directs his cast of talented athletes is no different, giving them little to no room for uniqueness. Other than Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) himself, this 5-man team of basketball icons is depicting the same goofiness we’ve seen from them before, especially Shaq.
Tiffany Haddish, Lil Rey, and Nick Kroll feel handcuffed. LIke their not getting that improvisational green light to make something out of nothing, to make a surprisingly tasty cake out of a bland baking mix. Haddish feels as if she’s reprising her role from “Girls Trip,” being that obnoxious and crude jokester we’re all familiar with, and Lil Rey is best when he’s allowed to interlude those little snippets of self-referencing commentary.
Making fun of the events, we’re watching on-screen as if he’s making fun of it for us. Irving has a few moments worth a chuckle or two, but he’s more of a moral compass than anything else. Attempting to deliver this so-so message of taking risks in life, using a hockey line, of all things, stating “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” With his old age and all, I guess he forgot this was a basketball movie.
I guess I am going easy on this film by not trashing it, but it doesn’t necessarily do anything so offensive or obscene to warrant that kind of negativity. Sure, it’s not a good movie. Heck, I definitely would describe it as a bad movie, but it's more lazy than it is idiotic. Geriatric-ing its way through the story, just moving forward and not noticing the potential surrounding it. Old people are like that though, always denouncing the next generation, a grain of authenticity to be found in a film that dresses up professional athletes like bank robbers.