Kyrie Irving, the point guard for the Boston Celtics (and formerly for the Cavs) is the title character in this appealing new comedy.
The movie grew out of a Pepsi Max campaign featuring Irving, whose middle name is Andrew — Uncle Drew, get it? — as a trash-talking gray-haired man in sweats who outdribbles and outshoots younger players in outdoor pickup games on blacktop courts. The series of short movies has drawn many millions of viewers on youtube since 2013, which led to this bankable movie project.
In the movie, Uncle Drew leads a team of older has-beens who demonstrate that age doesn’t diminish talent and that obnoxious jerks deserve their comeuppance. Not complicated, but satisfying at the metroplex.
The setup is this: Dax, a pudgy basketball-loving orphan (Lil Rey Howery, the TSA agent in last year’s popular “Get Out”) lacks the skills to play competitive hoops but has his heart set on organizing a team to win the annual Rucker 50 basketball tournament on Harlem’s famous set of outdoor courts.
Dax meets up with Uncle Drew, who is a baller, as the phrasing goes, and who takes Dax on a road trip to recruit some old friends, played by veterans Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson and Reggie Miller.
Together, they work through their issues to coalesce as a team. Shaq’s character has anger management issues and when he slugs another of the group, someone says, “That sucker punch is the first free throw you’ve ever made.” Inside basketball, that.
The bad guys are an arch-rival team called the Jets, led by Mookie (Nick Kroll) who further motivates Dax by romancing Dax’s two-timing, bling-obsessed girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish).
The movie is not complex, but it’s a pleasant diversion.
Last week I watched an “adult” comedy that was rated R and seemed unusually reliant on vulgarity and verbal obscenity. Later, a young friend explained to me that the difference between getting an R rating and a PG-13 rating is that only one “fuck” is allowed per PG-13 movie.
Skeptic that I am, I looked it up and found that my friend was right. There was a “fuck” blurted early in “Uncle Drew”, but the second one was sound-disabled out of tender concern for the ears of children and tweens.