Mmph… I miss SPACE JAM (1996). Hell, I’ll take AIR BUD (1997).
The story looks like it’s about a guy who gets some elderly former basketball players to get back in the game for what I can only assume to be a competition against a rival coach.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Lil Rel Howery (TAG , GET OUT , and upcoming films BIRD BOX  and THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2 ), Kyrie Irving (feature film debut; congrats, sir), Tiffany Haddish (GIRLS TRIP , KEANU , and upcoming films NIGHT SCHOOL  and NOBODY’S FOOL ), and Nick Kroll (THE HOUSE , SAUSAGE PARTY , VACATION , and upcoming films OPERATION FINALE  and THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 ). In support, we have Shaquille O’Neal (SHOW DOGS ), Nate Robinson (feature film debut; congrats, sir), Mike Epps (GIRLS TRIP, FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK , and upcoming films THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR  and THE CAT AND THE MOON ), J.B. Smoove (ALMOST CHRISTMAS , and the upcoming GOING PLACES ), and Lisa Leslie (stuff I’ve never seen or heard of).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Charles Stone III, known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of. Penning the screenplay is Jay Longino, known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of. Composing the score is- *double take* – excuse me?! Christopher Lennertz?! Dude! Well, I guess the score’s going to be good. Anyway, Lennertz is known for ACRIMONY (2018), BAD MOMS X-MAS (2017), GREEK WEDDING 2 (2016), RIDE ALONG (2014), and upcoming films THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS (2018) and SHAFT (2019). The cinematographer is Crash, making his debut. Congrats, sir. Finally, co-editing the flick are Jeff Freeman (TED 2 ) and Sean Valla (stuff I’ve not seen or heard of).
Overall, nah, not really looking forward to it. I mean, I like some of the on-screen talent, like Howery and Haddish, but everyone else… meh.
This is my honest opinion of: UNCLE DREW
Once upon a time, Dax Winslow (Lil Rel Howery) dreamed of being a great basketball player. But after suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of his rival, Mookie (Nick Kroll), he has since gone on to coach, instead of play. However, the insult to his defeat as a kid didn’t end there as Mookie buys out Dax’s team from under him. Losing his stars, and therefore losing his meal ticket to enter a street basketball tournament held in Rucker Park, a famous court where great basketball players got their start, as well as his long-time girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish), Dax is convinced to track down a legendary player from the 60’s, named Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving). With some mild convincing, Drew agrees to enter the tournament for Dax and begin a journey to track down the rest of Drew’s former friends and teammates, including the giant Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal), the near-blinded Lights (Reggie Miller), the religious Preacher (Chris Webber), and the wheelchair-bound Boots (Nate Robinson).
Yeah, this was bad, as expected. I hold no promises that this will be a long review, as there’s only so many times in a comedy where I simply say, “That wasn’t funny.” But I’ll do my best.
For one thing, it’s every underdog story that you’ve seen and the formula seems perfectly laid out for the audience to know exactly how it’s going to go. Gather a team, they have flaws, they overcome those flaws in the end, and win. It’s about as predictable as a movie can get. But what really gets me about this underdog story is the underdog himself, Dax. Look, Howery stole the show for me in GET OUT. I love the man, so I don’t fault him for the way this character is written. With that said, Dax is a pussy. This dude is such a yes man to his teammates and is so pathetically easily manipulated by everyone around him. I get it, Casper (Aaron Gordon) is his meal ticket and if they win the basketball tournament, it’s a ton of money that will set him up for a good long time. But here’s the problem, half of the reason why he has such financial problems is because he can’t say no to his players when they want incredibly expensive shoes. While his reaction is understandable, and was even potentially funny, trying to yank the shoes off of his players’ feet when he finds out that Mookie bought them out from under him, it’s still mostly his own damn fault.
Even the entire set-up of Dax’s backstory doesn’t make sense. From the sounds of it, he was a star player himself, and just because he missed one jump shot, he was completely humiliated and lost his chance to go professional? How does that work? It would make more sense if he lost a championship, I guess, but even the best of teams lose those, so I would still fail to understand how that would have been a big deal. You know what the biggest fix would have been? That Dax was delusional. Like someone would come up to him and say, “Dude, you were never a good player.” Because he grew up on big names like Michael Jordan, maybe as a kid, he thought all you needed to be was the star shooter making all the baskets. So when he played as a kid, he thought he was the shit, making all the baskets and being the best player on the team, when in fact, he never made a basket. He never passed the ball to his team and he never listened to his coach. He would have had no concept of teamwork and his delusions of being as great as he made himself out to be are the reasons for his failures. This would feed into his problems as a coach in the movie, and that’s why he needed to learn the lessons that he’s supposed to learn. But no, the movie made him out to be a star player and because he missed one shot, he’s immediately a loser for life. Screw that.
And let’s not forget his girlfriend, Jess. Oh, Tiffany Haddish, you beautiful, charming, only redeeming element to GIRLS TRIP of a woman, this could have been perfect. The ingredients are there. A woman who is only there to mooch off of his supposed successes, and isn’t genuinely in love with him, and eventually leaves him for the person who is more likely going to succeed and win the money from the tournament. It’s a basic role, but basic roles have existed with charismatic actors pushing past the limitations, making for memorable performances. While Haddish… does for the most part, again, the function of her character and how blatantly mean-spirited Jess is toward Dax is arguably the reason why he’s in a financial crisis at all.
Jess buys all of the more expensive shit that they own and he barely keep up with those payments. Except, here’s the thing about these details, making their relationship completely pointless at face value. One, the apartment they live in is her’s. Not theirs. Her’s. She owned that apartment room well before they met, which implies that she’s been living there independently without the need of support. Dax never contributed to the payments, meaning that she’s the breadwinner of the two. How a woman like Jess would ever tolerate being with a man who doesn’t contribute to the finances is well beyond me. Two, there’s no evidence to suggest that he’s going to win the tournament. Yes, the movie implies that Casper is an ace player, but a player is only as good as his team. Even Kobe I’m sure had to rely on his team at some point. I mean, you basketball fans can correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming that the Lakers had/have good coaches to complement the talent of their players. Dax is obsessed with making Casper his star player, making him a piss-poor coach, especially since Casper is trying to be a team player by passing the ball and everything to his team. But come game-time, his coaching could screw everything up and a crappy coach can definitely ruin a team’s successes. As if stands, Dax hasn’t proven himself to be a winning coach, therefore, Jess shouldn’t be giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Hell, now that I’m thinking about it, that would have been a better movie. Casper is the one player on his team that has legit talent, but the rest of his team doesn’t. He still tries to be a good sport and make his team feel like a team by passing the ball and giving them their own moments to shine, but his coach forces the entire team to make Casper a one-man team. In retrospect, I do genuinely feel like the movie was about the wrong person and leaving Dax hanging out to dry was almost justified with how he was coaching them. But no, it’s about Dax. Sadly.
Other problems include a forced romance between Dax and Maya (Erica Ash), a painful GET OUT reference directly from Howery’s character, nearly thirty minutes into the movie before the title character even makes an appearance, predictable and unfunny jokes, it’s a load.
I can only relay one moment that I found even remotely funny. There’s a scene where Drew and his former team are finally together and go a practice round with a team of girls and the guys are losing badly. One of the girls trash-talks Big Fella and he attempts to go after the girl, presumably to pick a fight with her, but his team holds him back. That was kinda humorous. And I did enjoy that Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie) was a contributing team member in the end.
Overall, this movie was bad. Horribly written characters that aren’t likable that don’t do the actors justice to their talent. It’s not funny, has no redeeming value that elevates itself, and ultimately offers nothing of entertainment value, unless you’re a basketball fan who would enjoy all the cameos that other basketball players make in the opening sequence. But those would be shallow reasons, if you ask me. I say, this is a hard pass. It’s not the worst movie I’ve seen all year, but if definitely fails as a comedy.
My honest rating for UNCLE DREW: 2/5
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