Uncle Drew (3 stars)

Uncle Drew

Crowd-pleasing basketball comedy featuring the NBA's finest in disguise

Expanded from a popular web series, the central joke of this US basketball comedy involves NBA stars wearing heavy old-age makeup. As such, its appeal will be much stronger to basketball fans but, even if you don't know all the players, it still strikes most of its targets.

Lil Rel Howery (Get Out) plays Dax, a Harlem streetball coach whose team, and girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish), are stolen by his rival Mookie (Nick Kroll) just days before a cash-prize tournament. Encouraged by his local barber (Curb Your Enthusiasm's JB Smoove, also in old-age makeup), Dax seeks out former streetball legend, the 70-something Uncle Drew (NBA luminary Kyrie Irving), who agrees to play on one condition: he gets his old team back together. So the pair embark on a road trip to recruit four more suspiciously sprightly septuagenarians, including big-haired Preacher (Chris Webber), blind Lights (Reggie Miller), wheelchair-bound Boots (Nate Robinson) and hulking Big Fella (Shaquille O'Neal), who's still nursing a grudge against Drew from years ago.

To the film's credit, it doesn't skimp on the prosthetic work, which is both state-of-the-art and extremely convincing throughout. Fittingly, it's amusing to see these 'pensioners' busting out their moves, even if the concept rather misses the point of the web series, which involved Jackass-style pranks in which Irving's heavily disguised basketball star schooled unsuspecting youngsters on a real-life court.

The rest of the humour is somewhat over-reliant on trash-talk (there are multiple old-man jokes and Howery's diminutive height is the butt of every third gag), yet the likeable cast have surprisingly decent comic-timing and there's the occasional stand-out moment – like Preacher almost dunking a baby during a baptism. Crucially, director Charles Stone III manages to make the climactic game exciting, hitting all the required underdog sports movie beats along the way, in crowd-pleasing style.

General release from Fri 6 Jul.

Uncle Drew

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • USA
  • 1h 43min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Charles Stone III
  • Cast: Kyrie Irving, Milton "Lil Rel" Howery, Nick Kroll
  • UK release: 6 July 2018

Dax (Howery) is a Harlem streetball coach who has to seek out 70-year-old streetball legend Uncle Drew (Irving) to form a team for a tournament. NBA stars wear very convincing prosthetic makeup in this amiable comedy, which is over-reliant on trash talk but which has a likeable cast and enough crowd-pleasing style to get…