It seems all the little shorties in the hood love Lil’ Bow Wow, ya’ feel me? If you don’t, let me break it down. As the lights went down, the sound track set off a girl chant of “Go Bow Wow!” The true fans probably would’ve been straight just to look at Bow Wow doing anything for an hour or so. But this is more than a “B”-grade kid flick.
If you want to get deep about it, Like Mike is a romantic comedy wrapped in a high-concept fantasy like Big (1988). Bow Wow is Calvin Cambridge, an orphan without much game on the court and few prospects of being adopted into the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” family that he dreams about. Calvin and his friends are getting a little too long in the tooth: “Face it. We’re like dogs. Parents only want the puppies,” Ox, the orphanage’s bully, says just to bring the other kids down. Things change when a box of used clothes shows up and a pair of old basketball shoes ends up fitting Calvin like Cinderella’s slipper. The initials “M.J.” are written under the tongue and that can only stand for Michael Jordan as far as Calvin is concerned.
After a few hassles and a freak accident that leaves the shoes magically charmed, not only has Calvin got game, but he’s got it on an M.J. tip, leaping from the key in the trademarked silhouette of the one and only Air Jordan. Soon Calvin is on a national team after shooting the lights out on its star player Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut). Of course, Coach Wagner (Robert Forster) makes Reynolds responsible for “C-Dog,” as Calvin comes to call himself, and an odd-couple love-hate relationship gets started between the two with all the shenanigans and high jinks you might expect.
Like Mike is nearly everything you usually get in a kids movie: fantasy, laughs, pint-sized David vs. Goliath adventure and tear-jerking melodrama with a feel-good ending. But the power’s in the shoes more than in Calvin, making the movie seem like a sneaky and expensive sneaker ad. Like Mike could have been as empowering a kid flick as Spy Kids, but — to parody the tag line of Calvin’s magic shoes — they just blew it.
James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.