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‘Uncle Drew’ is predictable, but inoffensive and good-natured

This image released by Lionsgate shows a scene from the film "Uncle Drew". AP

Uncle Drew (Rated B)

Cast: Lil Rel Howery, Kryie Irving, Tiffany Haddish, Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber

Genre: Sports Comedy

Dwight’s Rating:  Watchable   

Need a break from all the superheroes, dinosaurs or crime organizations taking up residence on theater screens this summer?

And have you been missing watching NBA basketball games since the finals last month?

And are you a fan of the Eddie Murphy comedies in which he dons tons of prosthetic makeup and plays a multitude of colorful characters?

Well, if you said yes to all the above, then your very specific prayers have been answered in the new sports comedy about 70-plus year old basketball players, “Uncle Drew”.

After draining his life savings to enter a team in the Rucker Classic street ball tournament in Harlem, Dax (Lil Rel Howery) is dealt a series of unfortunate setbacks, including losing his team to his longtime rival (Nick Kroll). Desperate to win the tournament and the cash prize, Dax stumbles upon the man, the myth, the legend UNCLE DREW (NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving) and convinces him to return to the court one more time. The two men embark on a road trip to round up Drew’s old basketball squad (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson and Lisa Leslie) and prove that a group of septuagenarians can still win the big one.

Overcoming challenges and adversity is a common theme in sports team comedies, and thus, there’s definitely a familiarity to “Uncle Drew”. Also, if you’ve seen a road trip comedy, or as previously mentioned, any Murphy comedy like “The Nutty Professor” or “Coming to America”, you’ll probably say there’s not much new here.

However, the real story is the cast. Lil Rel is a delight. After managing to steal all his scenes in one of last year’s most talked-about movies, the innovative “Get Out”, and after standing out in the short-lived TV series “The Carmichael Show” (along with Tiffany Haddish, his co-star in “Uncle Drew”), Lil Rel proves he deserves to be elevated beyond sidekick or supporting-character status, emerging as an endearing leading man. (He’ll get to further prove this on his very own TV show “Rel” this fall.)

Even more interesting is seeing all those professional basketball players in a totally new light. We already knew Shaq had it in him to act and do comedy, but Webber, WNBA star Leslie and especially Irving are quite surprising.

The players are all portraying characters many decades older than they are, and for the most part — outside from their astounding basketball moves — they do reasonably convincing jobs as senior citizens.

Unfortunately, we see with the closing credits (make sure you stick around for those) that some of the film’s funniest moments didn’t make it into the body of the movie. Irving’s best comic moments are only seen in these extra clips, and they showcase his comedic timing to even greater effect.

The net result is a movie that never really soars to its potential heights, even if its plot is not exactly groundbreaking. So while “Uncle Drew” is entirely predictable, it is inoffensive and good-natured. Its selling points are its likable cast and that it serves as counterprogramming to all the noisy summer flicks currently in theaters today.

 

 

 

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