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Like Mike

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Like Mike

Starring: Lil'Bow Wow, Jonathan Lipnicki
Director: John Schultz
Rated: PG
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: July 2002
Genres: Comedy, Sports, Kids

*Also starring: Morris Chestnut, Anne Meara, Da Brat, Crispin Glover, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Robert Forster, Jermaine Dupri, Eugene Levy

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie review
3.  Susan Granger read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

"He's lean! He's mean! He's thirteen!" the television sports reporter says of Calvin Cambridge (Lil' Bow Wow), LIKE MIKE's four-and-a-half foot hero. A wonderfully sweet orphan, Calvin is an endearing character who'll bring a constant smile to your face and leave just a bit of a lump in your throat.

As we meet Calvin and company, they're being nominally looked over at their orphanage by Stan Bittleman (Crispin Glover), the mentally AWOL leader of the facility. The young teenagers' predicament is best summed up by Ox (Jesse Plemons), the house's blonde bully. "You aren't getting adopted," Ox lectures Calvin on visiting would-be parents' day. "None of us are. Face it. We're like dogs. People only want puppies." Although it's hard to see how any prospective parents would pass on Calvin, a little charmer with pigtailed hair and personality to burn, the adults bypass everyone old enough to spell "hopeless."

Calvin's salvation comes in the form of a pair of used tennis shoes with the initials "M.J." inside. Once worn by a sports legend, these shoes turn out to be magic for Calvin and his ticket out of the orphanage.

Given some NBA tickets by Coach Wagner of the L.A. Knights, Calvin ends up being chosen at random to participate in a little basketball one-on-one action at halftime. Wagner is played with charisma by Robert Forster, who adds a lot of class to the production. Frank Bernard (Eugene Levy), the team's pesky promotion manager, gets Knights' star Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut) to go up against Calvin. With his supercharged shoes on, Calvin ends up beating Tracey. The special effects make this all just plausible enough so that we end up buying the story's illogical premise that a short kid could really become an NBA superstar. After his halftime performance, Calvin is signed up by the Knights, much to Coach Wagner's chagrin. You know basically where the story is headed after that, but you'll have a lot of fun getting there nonetheless.

The ensemble casting is terrific. The good vibes among the actors are palpable, but none more so that between Chestnut and Lil' Bow Wow -- What a name! -- who have warm, genuine chemistry together. At first, of course, Tracey really resents being stuck having to mentor and room with the kid while on the road. Calvin, who kneels to pray at bedtime and leaves the light on at night, drives Tracey crazy.

This touching, sweetheart of a movie has only one flaw. Director John Schultz has made it about a quarter of an hour too long. For the sake of timing and pacing, he should have lost the painting scene and a couple of others. But that is only a minor point. With some cute little musical numbers and with delightful acting all around, LIKE MIKE has wide appeal. Even if you have to borrow your sister's kids in order to fit in properly, you should see it since I think you'll be surprised how much you'll like LIKE MIKE.

LIKE MIKE runs 1:40. It is rated PG for "brief mild language" and would be acceptable for all ages.

My son Jeffrey, age 13, thought it was a funny film and gave it ***. His said that he knew it was going to have a classic ending. (When I asked him about this comment, it turned out that he was talking about a part of the ending that I didn't even think about.)

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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