Like Mike Movie Review

A cardboard Cinderella story, involving a pair of magic basketball sneakers and the hopes and dreams of an orphaned black youth, the script for Like Mike is about as challenging as getting tickets for a Wang Chung reunion concert. Calvin Cambridge (Lil' Bow Wow) is a short, pigtailed 14-year-old orphan with high hopes of one day playing with the big boys of the NBA. But his diminutive stature and inability to shoot a fade-away jumper over the orphanage's bully Ox (Jesse Plemmons) dent his dreams of stardom. But, the gods smile upon Calvin after he acquires a mysterious pair of old sneakers inscribed with the faded initials "MJ," which received a jolt of magic lightning one stormy night. Never mind the damning fact that previous owner of the shoes is about six feet, six inches in height.

After lacing up the shoes, Calvin ends up on the court of his favorite team, the Los Angeles Knights during a half-time promo, taking on the Knights' star player Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut) in a bit of one-on-one. With the power of MJ in his soles, Calvin fakes left and ends up hitting a 25-foot jumper and then a devastating slam-dunk that stinks of the power of Flubber. The reactions from a stunned crowd inspire the manager of the Knights, Frank Bernard (Eugene Levy), to sign Calvin to a contract as a publicity stunt, without ever intending the play the lucky whippersnapper. But after Calvin hits the game-winning jumper when the tough-as-nails coach Wagner (Robert Forster) hands him the ball - the evil orphan headmaster Bittleman (Crispin Glover) earns more riches wen Calvin's contract is re-negotiated.

Then - as predictable as an episode of Diff'rent Strokes - we watch as Calvin teaches his fellow teammates valuable lessons about life, battles the sinister Bittleman and his cronies, learns the hardships of room service, plays a mean game of b-ball a la Spud Webb, and comes to terms with finding his only family in this mortal coil.

One of the refreshing takes for a film such as Like Mike is the inclusion of real life NBA players and teams - which gives the film a more polished look and feel. Calvin's verbal interactions on the court with the likes of Chris Webb, Jason Kidd, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, David Robinson, and Dirk Nowitski - who all appear in decent cameos - are the highlight of the film. The sticking point, though, is that the film only carries about ten to fifteen minutes of actual basketball action and is shot and cut together so poorly that it's obvious those giants of the game are playing soft with Calvin and his magic MJ shoes. Director John Schultz never fully utilizes the power of Calvin and his magic shoes, and thus ironically creates a tepid fantasy world.

The rest of the film holds few redeeming qualities. Bittleman is both predictable and off-kilter when delivered in his strange vocal inflections. The pain of watching notable actors Robert Forster and Eugene Levy suffer the ridiculousness of starring opposite a teen rap sensation in an innocuous summer kiddie movie is at times unbearable and downright ugly. Lil' Bow Wow should take his SAG card home, frame it, and then place it above the fireplace; his performance as the scruffy, charming Little Orphan Annie knock-off is on par with Vanilla Ice's performance in Cool As Ice.

What a dog!


Comments

Like Mike Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG, 2002

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