REVIEW: ‘Uncle Drew’ is stale, even if it has positive messages
The film Uncle Drew (PG-13) opens this weekend, starring a host of current and former NBA stars that children and teens idolize. But is the film family-friendly?
Dax is a young man with big basketball dreams, but few skills. That’s why he’s a coach.
His team is the “Harlem Money,” an assortment of street ball players from the big city that has a legitimate shot at winning this year’s annual street ball tournament – “The Rucker” – and its $100,000 prize.
Then disaster strikes. His players leave to play for Dax’s long-time coaching nemesis, Mookie, and his girlfriend boots him, too.
In debt and desperate for cash, Dax stumbles upon a basketball legend from yesteryear who still has “game.” He’s called “Uncle Drew,” and although he reached his peak in the late 1960s, he still can beat the youngest players in a game of one-on-one.
Dax introduces himself to Uncle Drew, who agrees to play in The Rucker, but only if he gets to pick his teammates – that is, his teammates from the 1960s.
Can five gray-haired, over-the-hill men win a tournament full of New York City’s best street ballers?
The film Uncle Drew (PG-13) opens this weekend, starring Lil Rel Howery (Get Out) as Dax and a handful of current and former NBA stars as Dax’s team: Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew, Chris Webber as “Preacher,” Reggie Miller as “Lights,” Nate Robinson as “Boots” and Shaquille O’Neal as “Big Fella.” Former WNBA star Lisa Leslie plays Preacher’s wife, Betty Lou.
The movie has two primary angles: Uncle Drew’s desire to make up for an off-the-court misstep early in life and Dax’s dream of beating Mookie – a nemesis from childhood — in anything.
The film is based on a series of Pepsi-sponsored YouTube videos in which Irving wears makeup, dresses like an older man, and shocks street ballers on a real outdoor court with his skills.
Unfortunately, the movie isn’t as entertaining as those earlier videos, which involved real-life situations with real-life looks of shock. The film’s plot is thin and predictable, and the humor is mostly stale. The basketball scenes are the film’s strength, but even those grow tiring.
That said, it does have a few funny moments and several thought-provoking messages.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: Minimal, moderate, extreme)
Minimal. We see basketball players push and shove on the court. One player suffers what appears to be a heart attack. Another is injured.
Moderate. Dax begins the movie with a live-in girlfriend. We learn that Uncle Drew’s downfall was sleeping with women – especially on one occasion the night before the championship. Several women in the film wear belly-revealing clothes. We hear mild sex talk in a barber shop, and a reference to “n-ts” and Viagra. Uncle Drew has an old van with a “boom-boom room” in the back. An unmarried man and woman come to a door, only wearing towels. We see risqué dancing in a nightclub. We see Shaq’s rear end when he’s wearing a hospital gown. A male and female kiss.
Moderate. About 36 words: d—n (14), a—(5), d—ks (4), h-ll (3), OMG (3), SOB (2), h-ll (1), misuse of “Lord” (1), misuse of “Jesus” (1), GD (1), s—t (1).
Other Positive Elements
Preacher flees Betty Lou to play basketball against her desires, but she comes around later in the movie and supports him.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
Characters drink beer. In one scene I found unfunny and uncomfortable, Preacher dances in a baptistry with an infant, carrying it like a basketball and preparing to dunk it. When Dax speaks up and says the baby should be sprinkled and not dunked, the minister hands the infant to his parents. Preacher then baptizes Dax, who is shoved under the water multiple times.
For basketball players, the film has a few messages: you can go from a “punchline” to a hero overnight, and you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. (The latter is a lesson that Dax – who lives with regret about a shot that was blocked years earlier – learns.)
But more significantly, the film has messages about materialism (Dax’s girlfriend loves money and possessions), living in the past (everyone is focused on decades-old games), second chances (Dax desperately wants one), the old and the young appreciating one another, and overemphasis on the importance of basketball (we’re told it “fixes everything” in life).
Most characters in Uncle Drew are “living in the past.” They’re either boasting about their exploits or wanting to rectify their wrongs. Dax is even having nightmares.
What does God say about the temptation to look to the past, without overdoing it? God wants us to remember how He has blessed us (Psalm 103:2). In the Old Testament, He even commanded the Israelites to set up memorials, so they would not forget the great things God had done – and to tell their children about this.
God wants us to look to the past, but He doesn’t want us to live in the past. Otherwise, we are not able to live, as God intended, in the present and the future. Paul wrote, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). We are to remember God’s blessings and forget our failures – while having a forward-thinking focus on matters of eternity.
The film includes ESPN personnel (such as Scott Van Pelt) and begins with a mock “30 for 30” logo.
The opening scene of Uncle Drew tricking a cocky youngster to play him. The interaction and debate between Uncle Drew and Dax on everything — from music (Uncle Drew uses an 8-track) to the air temperature (Uncle Drew always is cold) – is fun, too
The humor. Comedy is subjective, but I didn’t see many people around me laughing all that much, either.
- Did you think Uncle Drew, Dax and the others were “living in the past?” How do we know if we are living in the past too much? What can we do to prevent us from living in the past?
- What can older people and younger people do to appreciate one another’s generation more?
- Can basketball truly “fix everything? What did Uncle Drew mean when he said that? Was he right?
- Which character was materialistic? What steps can we take to live lives free of materialism?
- What did the movie teach us about living together before marriage?
Entertainment rating: 2 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, language and brief nudity.