By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

I honestly didn’t expect much going into this movie.  I mean; how good can a movie based on a Pepsi commercial be? Well, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised when I left the theater. Despite the film’s predictable elements and formulaic parts, Uncle Drew, the movie, actually has much heart and is a laugh riot thanks to the comedic and earnest performances by the cast.  It is a typical underdog sports story, but the characters and their portrayals actually make it work as an entertaining piece of sports cinema.

Lil Rel Howery (Get Out) stars as likable loser Dax, a struggling manager of a streetball team who is hungry for his first victory and in need of some serious money.  After losing his team to his obnoxious rival Mookie (Nick Kroll), Dax is desperate for replacements. Shortly after being kicked out by his gold-digging girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish), Dax encounters the legendary, but elderly,  streetball player Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) and gets to witness his mad skills on the court.  Dax recruits the reluctant Drew for his team, under the condition that they get his old team members on board.  The two hit the road and pickup Preacher (Chris Webber), Lights (Reggie Miller), Boots (Nate Robinson), and Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal); however old grudges and old age don’t make the reunion any easier.

Writren by Jay Longino and directed by Charles Stone III, Uncle Drew certainly doesn’t re-write the underdog sports movie, but doesn’t really aspire to do so. It does succeed in offering audiences an entertaining and funny movie, particularly aimed at basketball fans.  Everything pretty much plays out as expected, but the fun and surprises come from the comedy.  I found myself laughing at the comedic performances of Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish, and Nick Kroll (as expected from all), but what surprised me was how well the basketball stars performed in their roles.

Chris Webber, Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, and Nate Robinson all give solid performances and often hilarious comedic turns despite their cartoonish makeup. The film also can boast fun acting by Lisa Leslie, Erica Ash, J.B. Smoove, and Aaron Gordon. Every single actor obviously put much love into this movie and that’s what makes it work.

And this love obviously comes from the sport of basketball and from the players’ experiences (both bad and good) with it.  This isn’t a movie that will appeal to anyone that either dislikes the sport or haven’t followed it at all in their lives.  For example,  there are some jokes that will go over some the heads of those not familiar with the careers of these players. Uncle Drew is clearly made for the fans by the biggest fans of basketball– those who have played tbe game.

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