Behind the Screen, By Kathryn Whitney Boole| Uncle Drew will make you feel like you’re 6 years old, watching Saturday morning cartoons. This movie is just plain fun to watch. Basketball fans will love it, and even if you don’t play or follow basketball, you’ll find it an allegory for life. The movie is engaging, the characters are endearing, the mood is slapstick, the stars are basketball legends, and the editors have created some of the best basketball footage I’ve seen. It’s not easy to give this game a gripping look in a cinematic setting because there is so much going on at once. Here the filmmakers have succeeded.
The story is based on a real tournament, the annual Rucker Classic Street Ball Tournament in Harlem, where basketball greats often show up to challenge the neighborhood’s rising stars of “street ball.” The film has its roots in a digital episodic commercial series by Pepsi starring Cleveland Cavalier great, Kyrie Irving. Irving here reprises his character of “Uncle Drew,” in his first big screen role. You will also get the treat of watching basketball icons Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson and Lisa Leslie become great comedians, a more natural transition than you may think. The Make-up team did an outstanding job making these current and retired players look 30-50 years older. The main protagonist of the story is “Dax” played by Lil Rel Howery, a Chicago comic known for his role in the film Get Out, with comedian Nick Kroll as his nemesis.
Dax is trying to recruit neighborhood kids to compete on his team in the tournament and has one setback after another. He never gives up. In the end, he finds a neighborhood legend, Uncle Drew, now an old man, and talks him into returning to the court. Surprisingly, old Drew still has game. They go on the road to recruit the aging members of his old squad, played by O’Neal, Webber, Miller and Robinson. Yes, these “old geezers” can actually play.
In one scene, Uncle Drew reminds “Preacher” (Chris Weber) that they have no more time outs. Avid basketball fans will recognize this as a reference to a real NCAA game where Webber called a time-out for his Michigan team, when the team had already used all their time-outs, and it cost them the game. It’s a great chance for Webber to laugh at his own mistake.
If you love basketball, this may be one of your favorite movies of the summer. Even if you’ve never watched basketball, it will be great entertainment. Sports games are a stand-in for real life, for confronting and solving troublesome situations and problems without starting a war – disappointments, losses, accidents, unexpected barriers, facing bullies, challenges, age-ism, and the list goes on. Definitely take your kids, grandkids or the kids next door, as there are many teachable moments. The cast and crew obviously had a fantastic experience making this movie and their mood is contagious.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica.