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'Like Mike'

'Like Mike' dribbles through stereotypes

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

Calvin wants to be a great basketball player but has three fouls against him from the start: He's 11 years old, he's 4 feet 8, and he's stuck in an orphanage-from-purgatory, if not hell.

"Like Mike"

Rating: PG-13 for some mildly vulgar language.

Starring: Lil Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut, Eugene Levy

Director: John Schulz

WEB SITE: www.likemikemovie.com



Obstacles? Yes. But nothing a little supernatural assist can't solve, once he gets his hands on (and feet in) a pair of magic sneakers initialed "MJ." That could only stand for THE big name of the roundball game.

Calvin -- in short and being short -- wants to be "Like Mike." He worms, charms and dazzles his way into the NBA, where his feet do their stuff, as long as they're encased in those twinkletoes tennies. But in addition to mythological success, Calvin needs nurturing. Don't we all? Trouble is, the more he becomes a midget star, the more his smarmy orphanage handler (Crispin Glover) thwarts his poignant need to be adopted.

We use "poignant" in the Hollywood script sense, of course. Formulaic poignancy is in the eye of the beholder. Gullibility is required. Credibility need not apply.

Director John Schulz and screenwriter Michael Elliot rely heavily on the ol' "Hoosier" theme. There are more last-second, one-point, slam-dunk victories than you can shake the shtick at.

The predominantly young African-American preview audience loved it, whooped it up at the action-cameo displays of NBA luminaries Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson and Karl Malone, and had fun cheering 'em on throughout.

Among the "real" performances, Morris Chestnut does a good job as Tracy -- who, against his will, is put in charge of Calvin's well-being with the team. Tracy is an ace of a player but a knave of hearts privately, with more than a few chips on his broad shoulders.

Eugene Levy -- he of the world's bushiest eyebrows -- is amusing in his customary portrayal of a nerdy authority figure.

In the crucial role of Li'l Orphan Calvin, the flick stars an 11-year-old newcomer called Lil Bow Wow. Actually, the kid's moniker stems from his being a protege of Snoop Dogg. Lil might regret (or consider changing) his handle a few years down the line when he decides to go legit.

Every dog has his day in "Like Mike."

Arf, arf.

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