2002, PG, 100 min. Directed by John Schultz. Starring Lil' Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut, Robert Forster, Crispin Glover, Jonathan Lipnicki, Eugene Levy, Anne Meara, Brenda Song.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 5, 2002
Like Mike is precisely the kind of movie you'd expect to see if the NBA were to get into the business of producing movies, and pint-sized adolescent boys who were already mega-successful rap stars wanted to extend their reach into the almighty worlds of movies and basketball. Like Mike is an example of modern synergy, an entertainment package that bears all the markings of having been cobbled together by its various interest groups. Alone, this story of an orphan who comes into possession of a pair of used sneakers that bear the initials "MJ" and become the source of his new magical slam dunking powers, is a slight and maybe sweet kids story. But when the worlds of basketball and rap combine to do a pick-and-roll on the world of film, the result is this powerhouse play that has more flash than substance. The film is essentially a showcase for Lil Bow Wow, the personable kid rapper who now wishes to drop the diminutive pup name and be known from here on as Bow Wow (a clear sign of personal maturation). NBA Entertainment is onboard as a producing partner, an alliance which allowed the filmmakers remarkable on-court access and action cameos by numerous NBA stars, including Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, David Robinson, Chris Webber, and many others. Bow Wow makes for a reasonable child star, with his expressive face and hands and boundary-straddling image that crosses over between cute and dangerous. Civic groups have understandably taken umbrage with the PG-rated film's plot point that involves young Calvin (Bow Wow) rescuing his sneakers from where they've been tossed onto a power line in the rain. Zapped by a thunderbolt, the Calvin and his sneakers thereby acquire their magic powers. Parental guidance should definitely involve some kind of “Kids, don't try this at home” explanation. Like Mike also offers us the unsettling notion of Crispin Glover as the head of an orphanage, but then underplays its hand as though the director's instructions to the actor were to “underplay” his usual bizarro mien. Like Mike is a slight and uninventive movie: Like the exalted Michael Jordan referred to in the title, many can aspire but none can equal. Even Space Jam was better than this.