After draining his life savings to enter a team in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem, Dax (Lil Rel Howery) is dealt a series of unfortunate setbacks, including losing his team to his longtime rival (Nick Kroll). Desperate to win the tournament and the cash prize, Dax stumbles upon the man, the myth, the legend UNCLE DREW (NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving) and convinces him to return to the court one more time. The two men embark on a road trip to round up Drew's old basketball squad (Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie) and prove that a group of septuagenarians can still win the big one. After a successful five years as a fan-favorite digital episodic series, originally conceived by Pepsi, UNCLE DREW, will hit theaters June 29, 2018. UNCLE DREW is a Summit Entertainment release produced by Temple Hill in association with PepsiCo's Creators League Studios.
A Movie for Basketball Fans and Young Hoop Dreamers
Uncle Drew is based on a series of Pepsi Max advertisements that began in 2012, which introduced its titular character. A feature-length film based on a few television-length ad spots should spell disaster and may appear to be nothing more than a cash grab. Yet, surprisingly, it works.
Uncle Drew (played by Kyrie Irving in prosthetics and old-man makeup) is a streetball legend and one of the greatest to ever grace the blacktop at Rucker Park, the mecca of the outdoor hoops world. At least, he was great in 1968. After skipping the championship game 50 years ago, he disappeared.
Enter Dax (the always hilarious Lil Rel Howery), a basketball lifer whose playing career ended abruptly in junior high after a moment of failure that left him scarred. Now, he coaches, and he's putting together a team to vie for the $100,000 prize awarded to the winner of the annual tournament at Rucker Park.
After his lifelong nemesis steals his team, Dax seeks the help of Uncle Drew to field a roster. In hilarious fashion, they gather up Uncle Drew's old squad, zipping across the east coast in the old guy's ancient van that's equipped with shag carpets and an 8-track tape player.
Former pros Shaquille O'Neal, Lisa Leslie, Nate Robinson, Chris Webber and Reggie Miller, each flaunting geriatric garb and cartoonish characteristics, hop in the van and head off to re-live their glory days. None of them are doing this for fame or fortune. They're doing this for love of the game and love of each other.
This movie is not meant to be nitpicked. If you find yourself doing so, you will undoubtedly detect numerous issues that will detract from your enjoyment. I advise that viewers suspend their disbelief. This movie doesn't take itself too seriously and neither should anyone watching it.
The story (though derivative) and the characters (though mostly played by non-actors) are charming.
The athletes won't win any awards for their performances, but they're out here having fun, and their fun is contagious. Their effervescence paired with the film's upbeat rhythm make this an enjoyable watch for basketball fans everywhere.
Make no mistake-this is a movie for basketball fans. Many of the jokes are inside references to the real lives of the former players and to other basketball movies (the homage to Hoosiers is a real treat). For good measure, the writers also mix in a fair amount of pop culture references, including Dax's joke about Get Out, which makes for an interesting meta moment, given that Lil Rel Howery also starred in that movie.
Ultimately, Dax's backstory fuels the film's heart and makes this a worthwhile watch to more than just hoop lovers. His character arc is deep and empathetic. Others have doubted him his whole life, and now his adversary (Nick Kroll) and unreliable girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish) doubt him once again. Through basketball and through his newfound friends, he finally finds someone to believe and him. And, most importantly, he learns to believe in himself.
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