by George Wolf
So Kyrie Irving has parlayed his Pepsi commercial into a full-length Uncle Drew feature?
As a Cleveland sports fan I’m conflicted, I ain’t even gonna lie.
A little history: when Irving first put on the old man makeup and schooled some unassuming playground ballers, he was a Cleveland Cavalier.
Then he hit the shot that propelled the Cavs to The Land’s first championship in 52 years. Mad love for you Kyrie!
Then he demanded a trade out of Cleveland. (Al Pacino voice) Kyrie, you broke my heart.
The point is, I need to get over it, I mean the point is, what made the original Uncle Drew work was the prank. Like the Jeff Gordon version when the NASCAR champion put on a disguise, took a test drive and nearly gave his car salesman a coronary, the fun was being in on the stunt.
That jig is up, and expanding a marketing idea to feature length means filling the void with more basketball stars in disguise, a few reliable comedians, and some warmed-over attempts at warm fuzzy life lessons.
Dax (Lil Rel Howery) has dreams of winning New York’s legendary Rucker Park street ball tournament, taking the 100K prize money and vanquishing his longtime basketball nemesis, Mookie (Nick Kroll).
But just before tourney time, Dax loses his team and his girl (Tiffany Haddish), leaving playground legend Drew as his only hope.
In true Blues Brothers fashion, Drew reforms his (very) old band (Shaq, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson) to break some ankles and get some buckets.
With a cast light on actors and a script light on substance, director Charles Stone III (Drumline) has his hands full. He tries to balance the athletes’ often painful emoting with the solid timing of the actual comics, and a few good laughs come out in the process (mainly in the first act and the closing blooper reel).
Basketball fans will appreciate a few self-aware inside gags (Chris Webber is a good sport), but with the novelty of the superstar-in-disguise long gone, Uncle Drew feels like little more than the corporate branding love child of Pepsi and Nike.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some 2016 NBA Finals highlights to cue up….