In the basketball comedy UNCLE DREW Hot NBA stars take on the roles of former athletes and show their young competitors how it’s done properly. The problem: Aside from the theme being completely tailored to the US market, the silly comedy just isn’t funny at all. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
Dax (Lil Rel Howery), short, stocky and severely nearsighted, has drained every last dollar of his savings to enter a team in the Rucker Classic streetball competition in Harlem. Unfortunately, he has to endure some setbacks, particularly hard for him: he loses his team to his long-time rival (Nick Kroll). Dax is devastated. He has to win the tournament and the prize money! By chance he meets the man, the myth, the legend: Uncle Drew (NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving). Dax convinces him to return to the field again. The two men set out on a road trip to round up Drew’s old basketball team (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson and Lisa Leslie) and prove that a group of seniors can still make it big.
Movie explanation of the ending
In the USA, basketball has a status that only football has in this country. Making a comedy on this topic is therefore inevitably aimed at an audience overseas, where Charles Stone III’s “Uncle Drew”, which had a very small budget of 18 million US dollars, was even a small surprise success. Certainly thanks to the commitment of NBA legends like Kyrie Irving, the film grossed over 40 million, more than twice its production costs; and the success continues on various video-on-demand platforms. The fact that “Uncle Drew” is also getting a USA cinema release is surprising, but there are certainly some basketball fans in this country who don’t want to miss out on seeing the sports stars made up into old people with the help of very convincing old-age make-up on the big screen. When they show all their skills on the field, things really get going at times. As a film, “Uncle Drew” is simply not good, because there is no drive in the simple story right from the start and the conventional actors (with the exception of the main actor Lil Rel Howery, who became known to the masses through “Get Out”) overact themselves the borderline of ridiculousness, until at some point it is barely bearable.
Lil Rel Howery played the best friend of the kidnapped main character in “Get Out” and thus proved to be a scene stealer.
The first thing you notice about “Uncle Drew” in terms of production is the remarkable lack of inhibition and self-indulgence, which is also carried over to the acting performances. Subtlety has no place here and so the first genre name that comes to mind is the neologism “Basketballsploitation”; with spectacular basket throws and basketball skills, rather than unrestrained orgies of violence, of course. But this impression is put into perspective when you look at the story. Screenwriter Jay Longino (“skip trace”) takes the most boring path you can take with a story idea that is already thematically exhausted. The premise: A group of sporting outsiders have to take on the hot stars of their scene in a kind of David versus Goliath battle and ultimately become a friendly unit on the arduous journey there. The fact that every second sports film works according to a similar pattern: for free. But in the case of “Uncle Drew”, this narrative uniformity clashes with the self-confident production and in the end these very different approaches collide until neither one nor the other really works.
This becomes particularly clear from the beginning with the main and supporting actors. While Lil Rel Howery, as a sports coach desperately fighting for his existence, brings the team together and does everything he can to gradually form them into a team (which the senior athletes used to be, by the way), then he will hopefully soon be seen in much larger roles Actor everything to ground the events with his character. His character even receives a rudimentary profile and is therefore definitely suitable as an identification figure. In contrast to the supporting actors, he seems almost inconspicuous. Next to the obnoxiously affected Lisa Leslie (“Think like a man”) As Dax’s hysterical friend Betty Lou, Howery barely gets to play and acts like he’s in a completely different film. The basketball stars, all of them largely without any major acting experience, cut a formidable figure on the court and show why the biggest advantage of “Uncle Drew” is that it was filmed with real cracks. But in terms of acting, the efforts to make it not look like amateur theater are always noticeable – and so it does look like amateur theater for long stretches, which further reinforces the miserable synchronization that stifles many of the gags.
The former basketball cracks come together again for a big game.
Ultimately, the sporting extravagances of the NBA stars remain the heart of “Uncle Drew.” Ball sports lovers may even have tears in their eyes at times; not least because those responsible forgo it, using quick cuts and spectacular perspectives (Karsten Gopinath, “Midnight Sun – Everything for you”) to give additional momentum to the matter. Most of the time the camera just stays on it. And what the main players who dominate basketball do on the field is breathtaking enough in itself. In addition, the illusion that we are actually dealing with seniors who have long since retired from sport is extremely successful. A behind-the-scenes video in the end credits of the film also gives the viewer a look into the make-up where the artists did a great job before each shoot. It’s a shame that director Charles Stone III (“Step Sisters”) and screenwriter Jay Longino didn’t create a more appealing environment for what was actually a likeable idea. So you move longingly from game scene to game scene, while everything in between is difficult to bear.
Conclusion: The US surprise hit “Uncle Drew” scores with some spectacular basketball scenes. But apart from that, the strenuous overacting of the actors and the shockingly boring story are difficult to bear in different ways. The synchro, which is unusually bad for USA standards, ends the film.
“Uncle Drew” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from September 20th.