Like Mike Review
By Shawn McKenzie 07/02/2002
I’ve had this theory for a while that the best musicians to make the transfer to acting are rappers, since part of what makes a good rapper is a good act. In Like Mike, Lil’ Bow Wow (or Bow Wow as he now prefers to be called) proves me right. Unfortunately, he is in an awful movie to stretch his acting chops.
I think Bow Wow is a decent kid rapper, and he impressed me with his brief but memorable role as Jalil in MTV’s TV movie "Carmen: A Hip Hopera," but his talents are wasted in this corny, clichéd basketball movie.
Like Mike is the story of Calvin Cambridge (Bow Wow), an orphan who happens to be a big basketball fan. One day he runs into the coach of the Knights (Robert Forster), who ends up giving him a bunch of tickets for the next game for him and his friends. The next day a box of donated clothes arrives, including a pair of sneakers that have the faded initials "M.J." on them. When Calvin asks the nun (Anne Meara) who donated the shoes, she says it’s one of those tall, bald, famous basketball players. Calvin assumes the initials are Michael Jordan’s, but before he can enjoy the shoes, a bully named Ox (Jesse Plemons) grabs them from him and throws them up over a power line. That night, with the help of his friends Murph (Jonathan Lipnicki) and Reg (Brenda Song), he climbs up a tree and retrieves the shoes. He ends up getting shocked while doing it, and the shoes supposedly make Calvin start playing like Jordan. He is offered a position on the team by the manager of the team, Frank Bernard (Eugene Levy), and is mentored by his favorite player, Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut.) Reynolds doesn't like Calvin at first, but gets to like him as they spend time together. Anyone who has seen enough kiddie movies knows where this is going.
My major complaints are odd casting, wasted casting, hokey storytelling, and some bad acting.
The odd casting is Crispin Glover as Stan Bittleman, the corrupt director of the orphanage that houses Calvin, Murph, Reg, and Ox. I like Glover, but if you are a casting director as you have the responsibility of filling the role of the clichéd corrupt orphanage leader, is your first thought going to be, "I bet Crispin Glover would be perfect for this role!" I'm guessing Glover needed the money, because I'm surprised he took the role.
The wasted casting is Levy. Didn't he make enough on the American Pie movies to avoid being in schlock like this? Maybe he is a basketball fan or something, but he is far too good of a comedic actor to take roles that waste his talent.
The hokey storytelling lies in its kiddie movie sappiness. There have been many movies made for kids that have proven that you don't have to be mushy to be good. There are too many examples in this movie to list them all, but if you are above the age of 12, you will find yourself rolling your eyes more than once.
There are some bad performances in this movie (amongst them are the many famous basketball players making cameos), but none as bad as Lipnicki. Here is a kid who has been lucky up to now. Believe it or not, Like Mike is only his fourth prominent movie role. His first one, Jerry Maguire, relied on his cuteness. His second movie, Stuart Little, was a hit despite him (any cute kid could have taken that role because the success of the movie was in the great vocal performance of Michael J. Fox, the quirky script by M. Night Shymalan, and the impressive visual effects.) His third movie, The Little Vampire, was his first lead role, but it was also his first flop. That may have set the stage for Like Mike. His fifth movie, Stuart Little 2 (coming to theaters July 19), should get him back on his feet, but like the first movie, its success will be despite his appearance. An actor can rely on cuteness for only so long.
The only reason I don't give this movie my lowest score of one camera is because Bow Wow and Chestnut gave decent performances, and because I saw it in a theater with little kids. From the reaction I witnessed, Like Mike will only appeal to the preteen and under crowd. Anyone who has gone through puberty will feel like he or she wasted his or her money watching this movie in the theater. Parents, save your money and wait until this comes on video. You can rent this movie for the kids while you watch something good in another room!
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