What happens when a Nike commercial becomes a movie?
First, I would like to state for the record that one of my ex-girlfriends once kissed LeBron James in the hallway of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, which means we're practically peers, right?
So this is the level of NBA expertise I bring to reviewing “Uncle Drew.”
If product placement has blurred the lines between movies and advertising, “Uncle Drew” takes things to the next level. Here we have a feature film based on an actual commercial.
Uncle Drew was introduced in a series of Nike ads featuring Kyrie Irving in old-man makeup. Hey, it's a fun concept, watching a septuagenarian looking like the spry baller Kyrie actually is. Is it a movie? I've seen it, and I'm still not sure.
“Uncle Drew” centers around Dax (Lil Rel Howery), who's managed to dump his life savings into entering a team in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem — without having an actual team.
So he recruits the street ball legend Uncle Drew (Irving) to be the cornerstone of his squad. Drew agrees, but on his own terms. He's going to get his old (literally) team back together.
Dax and Drew embark on a “Blues Brothers”-style road trip to reassemble the team, with a starting lineup that includes Preacher (Chris Webber), Lights (Reggie Miller), Boots (Nate Robinson) and Big Fella (Shaquille O'Neal).
The cast also features WNBA star Lisa Leslie as Preacher's fiery wife and Nick Kroll as a smug comedic nemesis to Dax.
Director Charles Stone III (“Drumline”) is working from both a thin idea for a movie and a formulaic plot, but he does keep things breezy and light with a cast that seems to welcome ad-libs.
Howery (the scene-stealing NSA agent friend in “Get Out”) is the comedic anchor, and while he probably deserves a better vehicle, he's a good baseline for a cast with so many non-professional actors.
Depending on how salty you are about his departure from the Cavs, Irving's performance is fine, though he's not as funny as his other NBA counterparts.
“Uncle Drew” is, unsurprisingly, filled with cliches and product placement (Nike should foot some of the bill for your ticket). It certainly is passable entertainment that almost feels fresh. A movie based on a commercial feels more original than another dinosaur or superhero sequel.