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1 item from 2002

Like Mike

3 July 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

While its arrival would seem a bit after the fact, "Like Mike", a Cinderella story of a kid's basketball fantasy, should nevertheless score major points with young and not-so-young audiences.

It's got a winning personality and a solid lineup of actual NBA players, but most of all it's got young hip-hop star Lil' Bow Wow in his motion picture debut, and the kid happens to be a natural.

Add in a touching story line that travels shrewdly in and out of the basketball court, and you've got a vehicle that will handily extend its reach beyond the hoop-dreaming male demo.

Bow Wow, as he prefers to be known these days (the "Lil'" part kind of loses its charm when you've got hair on your upper lip), brings a nicely rooted conviction to his portrayal of Calvin Cambridge, a 4-foot-8-inch 14-year-old orphan who resides at the Chesterfield Group Home.

He's been there long enough to see his share of prospective parent days ending with the adoption of one of the younger, cuter "puppies," stranding Calvin and his buddies Murph (Jonathan Lipnicki) and Reg (Brenda Song) with the home's operator, the calculating Bittleman (Crispin Glover).

But things change dramatically one day when Sister Theresa (Anne Meara) brings over a box of donated clothes, including an old pair of Nikes, which she seems to recall had originally belonged to some tall, bald basketball player. The sneakers, which bear the fading initials "M.J.", fit Calvin like the proverbial glass slipper.

Before you can say "Michael Jordan", Calvin soon finds himself as the star attraction of the Los Angeles Knights basketball team, and his newly discovered way with a 30-foot jump shot is helping to give the once-struggling team a real shot at postseason play.

Off the court, meanwhile, Calvin and his reluctant mentor, teammate Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut), manage to teach each other some valuable life lessons.

We're talking formula all the way, but it's a formula that works reasonably well, with director John Schultz ("Drive Me Crazy") hitting all the requisite posts of the Michael Elliot and Jordan Moffet screenplay.

While it doesn't stint on the heart moments, that script could have easily stood some stronger comedy, not to mention a little more inventiveness when it came to Calvin's wire-assisted b-ball gymnastics.

But the artist formerly known as Shad Gregory Moss pulls off both the necessary charm and the dramatic weight to make it tough to quibble. Chestnut is also immensely likable, while Glover, Eugene Levy as the team's nervous general manager and Robert Forster as the evenhanded coach all play their parts to order.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to get the NBA officially involved in your production if you're looking for the kind of street cred that only the presence of Allen Iverson, Gary Payton, Vince Carter and Chris Webber (among others) could provide.

Tech credits deliver the cost-effective goods, with Master Wow dusting off the vintage Kurtis Blow rap anthem "Basketball" for the energetic soundtrack produced by Jermaine Dupri and Michael Mauldin.


20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox presents in association with NBA Entertainment

A Heller Highwater/Josephson Entertainment production


Director: John Schultz

Screenwriters: Michael Elliot, Jordan Moffet

Story: Michael Elliot

Producers: Barry Josephson, Peter Heller

Executive producers: Adam Silver, Gregg Winik

Director of photography: Shawn Maurer

Production designer: Arlan Jay Vetter

Editor: Peter Berger

Costume designer: Mary Jane Fort

Music: Richard Gibbs

Casting: Risa Bramon Garcia, Brennan du Fresne


Calvin Cambridge: Lil' Bow Wow

Tracey Reynolds: Morris Chestnut

Frank Bernard: Eugene Levy

Murph: Jonathan Lipnicki

Stan Bittleman: Crispin Glover

Coach Wagner: Robert Forster

Sister Theresa: Anne Meara

Reg Stevens: Brenda Song

Running time: 100 minutes

MPAA rating -- PG


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