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
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
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