Sadly, Uncle Drew, the movie, shoots a brick

Published Jul 8, 2018 at 9:00am

The new basketball film “Uncle Drew” is an uninspired, predictable sports movie that does not take full advantage of its gimmick.

You will be able to guess how nearly every story beat in “Uncle Drew” will play out the moment it is introduced. This makes for a fairly standard, mildly enjoyable sports movie, if all you’re looking for is an easy win by the good guys.

Revealing that the good guys win the big game in the end does not count as a spoiler because “Uncle Drew” is not a bold enough movie to take any risks whatsoever.

Loosely based on a series of Pepsi Max internet ads, “Uncle Draw” is about a senior citizen who happens to be the greatest street player to ever bounce a basketball. The titular character is played by NBA star Kyrie Irving in really bad old person makeup.

The old man makeup and the acting are never not obvious. You are very aware that you’re just watching a real basketball player pretending to be an old man, and it is incredibly distracting.

When a down on his luck coach needs to find a new team to help win the local championship tournament, he stumbles upon Uncle Drew and convinces him to put his old squad back together and win it all. The old squad is also comprised of real NBA and WNBA stars in unconvincingly old person makeup.

Shaquille O’Neal on the big screen is never not Shaquille O’Neal.

The fact that the old person makeup is so unconvincing means “Uncle Drew” can never take full advantage of its primary gimmick. It’s never surprising that these old people can dunk or sink 3-pointers because the audience is always are that it’s just professional basketball players in makeup.

The movie also never provides a reason for why these men and women in their 70s and 80s are able to play so well. They are just always this good, so they face no real challenge in their quest for victory. The movie rarely ever uses their ages to address any themes, about life experiences or the importance of basketball over the years.

It’s just a bunch of really good players who love basketball, who just happen to be really old, and they win because the movie is about them. The film pays lip service to the idea that Uncle Drew’s old school style is superior to modern day players, but the movie never draws attention to that play style in the actual games. Everybody’s just playing normal basketball.

The down-on-his-luck coach character, played with desperation by Lil Rel Howery, carries most of the cliches. Does he suffer from some childhood basketball trauma that he will eventually confront and overcome during the tournament? Yes. Does he end up with the cute, friendly girl that shows up halfway through the movie and serves no purpose but to be cute and friendly near him? Yes. Does the camaraderie of Uncle Drew’s basketball team provide him with the surrogate family he never had? Oh my, yes.

“Uncle Drew” is not a completely worthless movie. It’s got a solid heart, and there’s always a certain charm to heroic sports movies. But it relies almost exclusively on easy cliches and never does as much as it could with its primary gimmick.

Action Point misses the mark

Anybody looking to recapture the manic energy of the original Jackass TV show will be disappointed with Johnny Knoxville’s new movie, Action Point. If this is Knoxville’s attempt to recapture the violent magic that made him famous in the first place, he doesn’t go far enough.

Action Point has not yet come to Rome, but it’s currently playing at the Marquee Cinema in New Hartford.

Knoxville came to fame in the early 2000s with his Mtv show Jackass, in which he and his skater buddies threw themselves with wild abandon into death-defying backyard stunts and gross out gags. It was a major millennial favorite and had a couple of movies of its own, but it has long since passed into the annals of shock history.

There was a reckless daredevil energy to what Knoxville and his pals did, and it made them famous enough to carve out their own corner of Hollywood fame. But that energy is sadly missing from Action Point. Knoxville tries his best; this film is full of slams, bams and a distinct lack of safety precautions, but it feels toned down.

Maybe Knoxville is getting too old for this or maybe he really thought he had a winner of a story on his hands. The latter is definitely not the case.

Action Point is a throwback to ‘80s teen movies, where a band of young ruffians spend their summers freewheeling at the local hangout spot to get up to no good and learn important life lessons. In this film, it’s Action Point, a no-rules, no-supervision amusement park on the edge of town, with junk rides and free-flowing booze. Knoxville plays D.C., the owner and operator, who has to fend off attempts to run him out of business by the boardroom snobs of the new franchise theme park next door.

It’s the classic hoodlums vs. suits prank warfare from an endless number of 80s movies. But since Knoxville isn’t a teenager himself anymore, he’s got another storyline where he has to connect with his teenage daughter, who is visiting for the summer. Maybe these types of stories were all the rage in the 1980s, but don’t do much for Action Point in 2018. Both the theme park storyline and the daughter storyline are full of predictable cliches and do little more than string the movie along.

The real selling point for Action Point would have been the return to form for Knoxville. What little marketing Action Point received highlighted the fact that he and his actors did most of their own wild stunts, most of which were purposefully done without safety nets or anything in the way of precaution. Knoxville himself suffered multiple injuries over the course of filming. That was his whole stock-in-trade back in the day.

But Action Point is lackluster at best. What crazy stunts made it into the movie are pretty mediocre, and the gross out gags are pretty tame and obviously staged.

Maybe seeing Johnny Knoxville slam face-first into the dirt at high speeds just isn’t funny anymore.