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By Michael Dequina | July 7, 2002

The sheer awfulness of “Like Mike” is nothing that anyone who’s seen the trailer couldn’t already figure out. After all, the very basic premise is a recipe for certain disaster. Young Calvin Cambridge (Lil’ Bow Wow) finds that a pair of sneakers that he believes once belonged to Michael Jordan — just because the initials “MJ” were written on them. (Alas, if only there were a late plot twist where the initials are revealed to have stood for “Michael Jackson” or something.) After Calvin and the shoes receive a jolt of electricity (if only the film resembled real life, in which case the child would’ve died, and the film would’ve been over after 20 minutes), he discovers that the sneakers give him mad hoops skillz. After schooling pro baller Tracey (Morris Chestnut) during a halftime contest during a game, Calvin is signed by Tracey’s team, the NBA’s perpetually struggling Los Angeles Clippers — er, Knights.
The rest of the story indeed writes itself — everyone knows that somehow, some way the kid will have to prove he got game without the magic shoes, and inevitably that Moment of Truth will come during The Big Game. The only credit that director John Schultz (who perpetrated the misbegotten Melissa Joan Hart vehicle “Drive Me Crazy” — ’nuff said) and the “writers” deserve is that they make Calvin’s Moment of Truth something that isn’t completely preposterous, like a high-flying game-winning slam dunk; it’s merely preposterous. What is completely preposterous, on the other hand, is the movie’s ghastly level schmaltz. B-ball skills, fame, and fortune are all well and good, but what Calvin really wants is to be part of a family. It’s no mystery whose family of which he will end up he’ll end up being a part the minute Calvin starts love-hate sparring with Tracey. A certain level of sap is to be expected from family films, but something is awry when the basketball action — clearly what both the under-10 target audience and their parents want to see–is drowned out by such syrupy sights as Tracey, Calvin, and Calvin’s best friend (Jonathan Lipnicki) bonding while throwing paint at each other. In slow motion. I wish I were joking.
But there’s no joke about the wretchedness that is “Like Mike” — except the cruel one on anyone who gets suckered into watching this crap. Don’t make the same mistake as Chestnut and Robert Forster (as the Knights’ coach), real actors trapped in a horrid “family” flick/acting vehicle for a nominally talented (as far as acting goes) kid rapper. But then again, they got a nice paycheck to be associated with “Like Mike.” Unless you’re given the same incentive, there’s no excuse to come within a hundred feet of a screen playing this monstrosity of a movie.

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