The TBI was off the charts for this film, stretching way past the point where you order your chalupa, at least 15 cars deep. That should have been my first clue that Uncle Drew would surpass my admittedly low expectations. I have been burned many times by films that rely on a star athlete to try and carry a feature. As a basketball film with an African-American cast, wouldn’t Uncle Drew rely on the same disappointing jokes and stereotypes that we have all suffered through a thousand times? And yet, it didn’t. The theme of the film is somewhere between family is right in front of you if you can see it / ego can destroy the greatest talent / you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
Is Uncle Drew formulaic? Yes. It is about as formulaic as you can get and yet it’s such an enjoyable ride, you don’t really mind. From an aesthetic point of view, it’s beautifully shot. RED digital cameras have truly come into their own. There was a great mix of glamorous photography along with arching action shots. In terms of the make up, I think the film should be nominated for an Academy Award for prosthetics. It was fantastic to see folks you recognize look straight up geriatric. At the same time, it’s sort of believable that someone who is dedicated to something like say playing the drums, riding a bike or playing basketball could excel at it after not playing for decades. More than muscle memory, the film makes a case for love of the game.
The acting in the film also raised it above what I expected going in and made it greater than the sum of its parts. You could see the actors were in tune with their characters. Even in the bloopers, where thankfully the only mom joke in the entire film can be found, the main character, Dax, strongly played by Lil Rel Howery, says he wouldn’t know, he is an orphan. It goes to show how deep the actors prepared and how the characters had many dimensions and motivations to guide their performances.
As a basketball playing fanatic for many years I appreciated the film on another level as well. Sure, looking back on schoolyard hoops there are the great moments, the bad moments and the moments you tell your therapist about but the point is, as Uncle Drew points out, you don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing. I’m glad these geezers got together to once again throw down the rock.