Growing up a kid in Hoosier Country, we had a phrase we used to use, “basketball is life.” This phrase, simple and elegant, is the premise of the new film starring basketball superstar Kyrie Irving Uncle Drew. The film is based upon the character created in the Pepsi Max ads (if you have no idea what I am talking about, that’s what Youtube is for) following a geriatric basketball player who has no problem putting “young-bloods” in their place. For Drew, basketball is life. The game rules all, because it teaches us how to live together, and work together, and solve any problem.
Uncle Drew follows the title character and blacktop-basketball-legend as he assembles his old team to help Dax win The Rucker streetball tournament in Harlem. After Dax loses his team, Drew agrees to help recruit his old streetball team – despite their falling out – for one last ride to win the tournament. As Drew recruits his team, he teaches Dax about the game (and life) and discovers he hasn’t been as true to his principles as he thought.
Sounds a little bit like a Hallmark movie, but with a few slam dunks right?
Now the plot is basic, super basic, and as an audience member you can see how the whole film will play out about thirty seconds into the film. But here’s the thing: no one will go see Uncle Drew for the plot. The movie is more like those old NBA Street games we used to play as kids on the PlayStation 2. We go see the movie to watch basketball superstars slip-n-slide down the court, alley-oop-ing and dunking over people. It’s a lot of fun. Especially since the film includes basketball legends like Shaq, Reggie Miller, Lisa Leslie, Chris Webber, and 3-time NBA dunk champion Nate Robinson. Plus, a handful of other basketball stars ad legends makes appearances in the film. So, if you like basketball, you’ll like this one.
For a bunch of sports stars wearing ten-pounds of make-up, their performances are even pretty good. Even if they are really just having fun with each other. Lil Rel Howery (Dax) and Nick Kroll, deliver their signature style of comedy in a hilarious rivalry. The movie deievers a few laugh. By far the best joke in the film pokes fun at Chris Webber’s infamous time out blunder which cost his Michigan team a National Title.
The theme of the film is actually surprising, and reaches above the – how should I say, “basic” – premise. There are two types of people in the world. There are the ones who when handed a basketball think, “what if I miss this shot?” Then there are the ones who think, “what if I make this shot?” It’s a simple question, but the difference in those two mindsets makes all the difference. The risk taker’s in society only seem to focus on making the shot. These are the entrepreneurs, the inventors, the pioneers. They are the superstar athletes, successful musicians, and real estate moguls. Because they do not allow themselves to become paralyzed by fear, they are able to achieve new heights are reach their goals. Yes, sometimes they fail… but eventually they focus on taking the next shot. These people invent light bulbs, create Disneyland, and some even become President. The other group of people – are the rest of us. Afraid of our own failure to risk reaching for greatness. For that reason, we become trapped in mediocrity and obscurity.
A powerful theme, not one I expected to find in a basketball comedy.
Uncle Drew will not change your life, but it is a fun way to spend an evening. Unless of course you hate basketball.