Like Mike (2002)
Like Mike is, like, fantastic
Once every few decades, a standout orphan turned basketball star film is released. Like Mike, starring Lil Bow Wow, is this generation’s crowning achievement in the genre. Never has a film tackled such complex issues as adoption, child labour laws and magic shoes with such sensitivity.
Like Mike tells the tale of Calvin Cambridge (Lil Bow Wow), a young kid who resides at an orphanage that is run by an evil orphanage director (portrayed by Crispin Glover, best known as George McFly in Back to the Future). What makes this man evil? Well for one thing, he makes the kids sell chocolate bars and keeps the money for himself. This is exactly why I refuse to purchase anything from children. It’s all a front, and most of the time the kids are in on it. I urge you all to avoid making eye contact if you see a kid standing outside the mall with a pile of chocolate.
Calvin’s favourite pastimes are playing basketball with his fellow orphans and watching NBA games on the television. This love for the game of basketball, in addition to a freak occurrence, helps to make Calvin’s life take a turn for the better.
One night young Calvin is forced to sell the aforementioned chocolate bars outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles. That happens to be the home of the Los Angeles Knights, the NBA’s third and least heralded L.A. franchise. After a chance meeting with the coach of Knights, Calvin finds himself with the opportunity to attend an NBA game.
Before he gets to the game however, Calvin gets his hand on a pair of running shoes that once belonged to none other than Michael Jordan. After the resident bully of the orphanage causes the shoes to get stuck on some electrical wiring, Calvin decides to climb up and get them – during a lightning storm! You see the thing about orphans is that they don’t have parents. If Calvin had parents, they likely would have advised against him taking such a course of action.
Without giving away too much more of the plot, lightning does strike, which allows Calvin to become the perfect basketball player when wearing those sneakers. The owner of the Knights franchise (Eugene Levy) takes notice of this, and thanks to the NBA’s lax child labour policies, makes Calvin his newest star.
Along the way Calvin must deal with some nefarious dealings between the orphanage director and the Knights owner, gaining the acceptance of his teammates and dealing with his own desire to be part of a family. Calvin learns that not all of life’s problems can be solved with a simple 360-degree slam-dunk.
Lil Bow Wow, now simply known as Bow Wow, is an outstanding young thespian in the making. In his first film role, he delivers a performance that is mature beyond his years. While I understand he is quite popular in the hip and hop musical circles, I urge him to stop “gittin’ jiggy wit’ it” and focus more on his film career.
As Calvin’s best friend Murph, Jonathan Lipnicki is golden. Best known as the cute kid from Jerry Maguire, Lipnicki shows once again that he is one of the finest young actors not working today. Whichever film sets or soup kitchens he graces with his presence in the future will be the better for it.
In addition to the great cast I have already mentioned, several of the NBA’s biggest stars make cameo appearances in the film. Jason Kidd, Gary Payton and Rasheed Wallace, among others see action against young Calvin. Thanks to the boost from his footwear, the real life NBAers are made to look quite foolish when pitted against the youngster. The pro players clearly checked their egos at the door. Hopefully they did the same with their guns.
Like Mike is a terrific film for children young and old. Although I must say that young children will probably enjoy it more than old children. Prepared to be bow-wowed by this picture!