Friday, June 29, 2018

Uncle Drew

I should really make more of an attempt to follow basketball next season. I don't necessarily feel something is missing after the Red Sox play their last game, but I do have fewer conversations with some people because I sort of stop paying attention to sports beyond "the Celtics and Bruins are doing well, this makes my co-workers and neighbors happy, and that is good" (and, I mean, I'm not going to follow football; that's just absurd). The Celtic do seem like a fun team that kept rolling when they had no business continuing in this year's playoffs.

What this means is that you can probably add another quarter- or half-star to the rating if your knowledge of present-day basketball and its players means you get jokes beyond "Shaq can't hit free throws" which I didn't. I had a good time with it anyway, though - certainly a better time than I would have had with Soldado.

Uncle Drew

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 June 2018 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run, DCP)

Uncle Drew at the high end of how good you can reasonably expect a movie produced by a soft drink company and starring a bunch of non-actors under several layers of prosthetic makeup to be, and that's assuming you don't dismiss movies with their origins in advertising right out of hand. That's mostly because there's a genuine love of basketball on display, and that can sometimes do more for a movie than a few more jokes or a particularly inventive script.

And make no mistake, a lot of this movie can be clunky. It opens with a mock-documentary bit about its title character, a legendary Harlem street-ball player from decades ago, but then spends a fair chunk of time with Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a sneaker-store employee who has scraped together the entry fee for Rucker Playground tournament and built a team around one star player (Aaron Gordon), only to have his old grade-school nemesis Mookie (Nick Kroll) steal his players and girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish) kick him out. The guys at the barbershop tell him to recruit Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving), and he does so reluctantly, after seeing the septuagenarian school a bunch of youngsters. Drew insists on putting his old team back together, all as old as him and even less inspiring: Preacher (Chris Webber), whose wife Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie) doesn't want them leaving their church even for the weekend; Lights (Nate Robinson), who is legally blind; Boots (Nate Robinson), who hasn't walked or talked for years, although granddaughter Maya (Erica Ash) thinks the trip could do him some good; and Big Fella (Shaquille O'Neal), who now teaches kids karate and hasn't talked to Drew for fifty years.

Folks who follow basketball more closely than I do will probably catch more specific jokes - I got the bits about Shaq's character not making free throws, but that became a thing even non-fans knew - but it's not like the basic gag of guys who have aged a bit doesn't work on its own. One important surprise is that Kyrie Irving's Drew is kind of the least funny character of the group, whether because the rest of the team had to be more specific than "old guy really good at basketball" or because his true talents lie on the court. Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, and Lisa Leslie all get to play up big, silly bits while Nate Robinson does a surprisingly good job of communicating the body language of a guy who has allowed age to implode him. And Shaquille O'Neal is Shaquille O'Neal, a giant whose charisma exceeds his talent as an actor by enough that he can can carry more of the story than one might think. I really liked this group by the time the last game was over; they're clearly having fun.

Full review on EFC

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