July 18, 2018

Uncle Drew: Geriatric Legends Against Youngbloods in Rucker Park Hoops Comedy

By Kam Williams

Since 1950, Rucker Park has been home to a popular basketball tournament that takes place on an outdoor court located at 155th Street in Harlem. Many promising prospects have honed their skills on the world famous proving ground en route to NBA careers: Kevin Durant, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, “Dr. J” (Julius Erving), and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, to name a few.

Uncle Drew is a hilarious hoops movie that pays tribute to Rucker Park as well as to the athletes who have mesmerized generations of fans who have attended the annual summer classic. Directed by Charles Stone III (Drumline), the picture stars the Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving as the title character, but don’t expect to be able to recognize him under all the plastic makeup that turns him into a senior citizen.

The same can be said of Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie, as they all transition into old timers, too. Rounding out the principal cast are the Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon and six of the funniest comedians around: Tiffany Haddish, J.B. Smoove, Mike Epps, Nick Kroll, Lil Rel Howery, and Erica Ash. The film has cameo appearances by George “Iceman” Gervin, Jerry West, Dikembe Mutombo, Bill Walton, David Robinson, Steve Nash, Rick Barry, and Chris Mullin, among others.

Just past the point of departure, we find Dax (Howery) putting together a team to enter in the upcoming Rucker tournament. But when he loses not only his best players but also his wife (Haddish) to the perennial winning coach (Kroll), Dax prevails upon geriatric Uncle Drew (Irving) for help in assembling another team.

Drew embarks on a cross-country road trip to coax his long-lost buddies out of retirement for one last hurrah on the court at Rucker. However, each member has a life of their own and needs to be convinced to join the team. Big Fella (Shaq) is now the sensei of a thriving karate school; Lights (Miller) is legally blind; Boots (Robinson) is wheelchair-bound; and Preacher (Webber) has a bat-wielding, disapproving wife (Leslie), plus a church congregation he’ll have to abandon.

Of course, at Rucker, the reunited old timers are practically laughed off the court, until they show that they still got game. But can the cagey old seniors prevail in the championship match against the youngbloods coached by Dax’s trash-talking nemesis?

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for profanity, suggestive material, and brief nudity. Running time: 103 minutes. Production Studios: Creators League Studio/Temple Hill Entertainment/Summit Entertainment/Pepsi Productions. Distributor: Lionsgate Films.