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Reviews » HD DVD Reviews » Uncle Drew (HD DVD)
Uncle Drew (HD DVD)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // PG-13 // September 25, 2018 // Region 0
List Price: $42.99 [Buy now and save at ]
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted October 22, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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Being willfully ignorant of elements of pop culture that I don't feel are worth my time, as well as sports, yet still watching a lot of movies makes for a lot of fun when a movie like Uncle Drew comes along. At first glance, like Super Troopers I suspected there were a number of inside jokes right in front of me that I was missing because I wasn't "cool" enough, and sure enough that's the case. The title character was created by basketball player Kyrie Irving while shooting a commercial for Pepsi, and soon became the subject not of TV commercials but web videos promoting their "Pepsi Max" drink. You can see them on YouTube and the focus is more on basketball than Pepsi, with the only time that's seen onscreen is during shots of game audience members drinking it. Since Uncle Drew is an old man played by Irving in aging makeup, he sort of ties in to Pepsi Max's slogan "A zero-calorie cola in disguise." (Incidentally, I've tried it and it tastes terrible, just like any other diet soda.)

All of this has now led to this movie, the first I've seen to have "Pepsi Productions" listed in the opening credits. A brief mock-documentary brings those of us who are unenlightened up to date about Uncle Drew- essentially he's a basketball legend, inspiring most of the game's other stars but being a mysterious soul who isn't always around. Although he's of senior citizen age today, he can still outplay just about anyone. Our story's main character however turns out to be Dax (Lil Rel Howery)- as a kid he dreamed of being a basketball star, but gave up after Mookie (Nick Kroll) on the opposing team blocked one of his shots and cost him the game. Now he works at Foot Locker while coaching a local basketball team, preparing them for the Rucker Classic games in New York. Mookie is still making life hard for him decades later, this time luring his best players away to join his own team. Dax had counted on making some big bucks in that game but now has no good players, and his annoying nagging girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish) kicks him out of her house- I found that to be a good thing as that meant she wouldn't be in too many other scenes.

But this is when Dax learns about the legendary Uncle Drew, and figures he can save the upcoming games for him. While he's first disappointed to see that Drew is an old guy, he watches him play and sees how great he still is. Drew agrees to play for him, but only if he's allowed to pick everyone else on the team. Thus begins a Blues Brothers-like trip in Drew's vintage 1970s van to round up his old friends and get the band, er, team, back together. These turn out to also be really old guys who can still play a mean game, and all played by younger guys in aging makeup. These include "Preacher" (Chris Webber) who has been a preacher for the past few years, "Lights" (Reggie Miller) who's now blind, wheelchair-bound "Boots" (Nate Robinson) and "Big Fella" (Shaquille O'Neal). Being back in the game proves magical to them, as Lights suddenly gets his sight back and Boots stands up and walks away from his wheelchair. Picking the old players up takes up about half the movie as a road-trip film and makes for a few good laughs, most notably Dax being mystified at the 8-track player in Drew's van and hearing classic R&B tunes that he only knew as samples in later hip-hop records- he asks "How'd you get Biggie Smalls on 8-track?" and I applauded when Drew appropriately scoffs at that reaction.

The second half of the movie is the buildup and playing of the big game, and your interest in that largely depends on how enthusiastic you are about basketball. What pretty much made the movie not "work" for me though was the makeup on the players- largely thanks to this being on the 4K Ultra HD format, it's painfully obvious that it's all fake. If you can somehow get past that or accept it as part of the joke, you might enjoy this movie more than I did. I admit that it's a bit odd that I can accept the flaws in some movies but not others, but this was a case where the makeup killed it for me in addition to my not being a huge sports fan. Product placements for Pepsi are of course also prominent, which I'm sure were most appreciated at theaters that serve Coke products.

Picture, Sound and Subtitles:

While 4K with Dolby Vision is likely overkill for this movie, I still believe in seeing everything in the best available presentation and that's how we get it for better or worse. I've heard that it was shot digitally in 2K resolution but it mostly looks fantastic here regardless, likely better than it appeared in most theaters and better than it deserves to look altogether. Most notably you can see the detail on everyone's faces right down to the pores on their skin- and unfortunately this also brings out far too much detail in the characters' aging makeup reminding us that it is in fact makeup. A 1080p Blu-Ray is also included which also looks very good but a bit softer than the 4K disc, and the makeup looks far more believable there. This is definitely a case of a high quality picture making flaws in the production all the more apparent.

Audio on both discs is in Dolby Atmos which is also a bit overkill. My speaker setup isn't the greatest, but it's delivered a decent experience on other titles- however I didn't really hear anything here that made obvious use of the format. The track is still very lively overall with clear dialogue and plenty of action in the front and rear channels, but the height channels didn't stand out to me. Your mileage may vary based on your setup. There's also a 2-channel mix "optimized for late night listening" mainly with subdued dynamic range for playback at a low volume, and a descriptive audio track along with hearing-impaired subtitles and standard format English and Spanish subs.


The main extra here is an "enhanced audio commentary" with director Charles Stone III- this uses a separate 1080p encoding of the movie on both discs (rather than using any fancy branching or player-generated graphics) so that the movie can be paused and portions re-played with details pointed out and circled onscreen when needed. He gives a great deal of info about the movie and points out many CG effects that are blended into the movie quite seamlessly- such as Drew's van being added via CG to aerial road shots and even a large building by the New York basketball court which was actually shot in Atlanta where no such buildings exist. The picture quality of this encode is quite jaggedy, and further makes the makeup appear more believable.

"Who is Uncle Drew?" is the main "making-of" segment, running about ten minutes and showing most aspects of the production including the lengthy make-up process most of the cast had to undergo each day. One shorter featurette focuses more on the cast itself and another on Uncle Drew's van (three vans were used in the production, each having a different use). "Drew Drew" is an amusing pencil-animated short showing more of the character's background, and a few deleted scenes are included along with the movie's theatrical trailer. The Blu-Ray disc (only) opens with trailers for Overboard, Kin, Boo 2! A Madea Halloween and an upcoming Robin Hood movie.

Final Thoughts:

Uncle Drew has its moments, but doesn't have much to offer overall especially if you aren't 100% into its main subject which is basketball (there have been other sports movies that I've enjoyed a good deal despite being a non sports fan.) The 4K disc delivers a presentation that arguably looks too good, with the flaws of the makeup (another large part of this movie) being apparent and distracting.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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