Hello. Conductor? Excuse me, Mr. … Hollywood, was it? Hi, sorry to distract you. We seem to be going very fast. As you know, we departed Turner Classic Station this morning and passed the Cape of Good Ideas more than an hour ago, and — well, it seems like maybe we should have been nearing Mount Ingenuity or the Comedic Caverns soon, but actually it looks like we’re getting pretty close to the Woods of Flop, which is only just south of the Hackneyed Cliffs and the Pit of Branded Despair, and … oh my God, is that Kyrie Irving tied up on the tracks ahead?
We do not have to do this, Hollywood. We do not have to take Irving’s “Uncle Drew” commercial series and make it into a feature-length film, a process that has already started to take shape, according a Thursday report from Variety. We can avoid this fate.
If you weren’t paying much attention to the basketball internet four-plus years ago, here’s a refresher. The premise of “Uncle Drew” is that a very old man turns up at a pickup basketball court and insists on playing. He hobbles around, missing some easy layups and bricking shots — until suddenly he pivots, and begins dancing around defenders and swishing improbable 3-pointers and dunking as the players who had just finished taunting him struggle to comprehend what’s happening. The old man, it turns out, is not old at all: He is a makeup- and prosthetic-assisted Irving, who as it happens is very good at basketball.
It’s a good joke! It is. That video: I recommend watching it. So allow me to take this moment to apologize for ruining the entire plot of a future movie.
“Uncle Drew” is not just an Irving production: It’s part of a marketing campaign for Pepsi Max (since rebranded as Pepsi Zero Sugar), the Very Extremely Diet version of Pepsi, which the company’s corporate overlords decided was the variant to try to jam into athletics. In the “Uncle Drew” series, Irving’s basketball feats are interspersed with shots of cheerful young people drinking Pepsi on the sidelines.
A funny thing happens when a brand makes a good joke, by which I mean a very un-funny thing happens: It does the exact same thing again. And again. And again. Which I get, kind of — it’s an amusing shtick, and even the fourth segment in the series, released in November 2015, has drawn nearly 13 million YouTube views. (The original, from 2012, has topped 47 million.) It is still funny to see the Cavaliers point guard wear a costume; it remains entertaining to watch him school a bunch of ostensibly clueless bystanders. (That part — that his pickup-game compatriots are unaware of what is happening — is increasingly hard to swallow, given the popularity of the character, the careful placement of Pepsi-branded content, and a level of production value that does not exactly suggest hidden cameras.)
But what in the world is going to happen in an “Uncle Drew” movie? Will Irving pretend to be even older? Will he fool even more people? Will he move into a retirement home and get very invested in the weekly cribbage competition before losing patience, flipping a table, and leaving his new friends to wither in peace? Will he be bullied, and then teach us that the best way to fight bullies is to secretly be an NBA star? Will a great river of dark, burbling Pepsi suddenly flood the local basketball court, washing his disguise away?
Seriously: While Uncle Drew the character is funny, the plot of this series is basically Space Jam, only instead of “aliens have stolen our athletes’ power and we must fight to save them and the planet,” it’s “lol, just kidding, this old guy can ball.” Uncle Drew: The Movie is film-by-SEO. It is Chewbacca Mom meets the NBA. It is the logical extension, maybe, of a world that made a movie out of Battleship and Minesweeper, and a $3.73 billion franchise out of a ride for children. It is an abomination. Please, Mr. Hollywood — if you’re going to make a movie about Kyrie Irving, make it about this.