`Like Mike' a slam dunk

Movie Review

July 03, 2002|By Kevin Thomas | Kevin Thomas,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SUN SCORE

***

Like Mike is a sure-fire heart-warmer: lively and funny yet emotion-charged and uplifting.

This family friendly movie, about a little kid who ends up a star on an NBA team, soars above so many sports comedies because director John Schultz and writers Michael Elliot and Jordan Moffet aim as high as the basketball hoops that figure so importantly in their story.

They consistently set off the fast-moving fantasy action on the basketball court with the reality of a father-son relationship that develops in fits and starts and no small amount of anguish, even given considerable humor.

Rapper Bow Wow makes a terrific film debut opposite Morris Chestnut, who gives a nuanced performance as the star player of the Los Angeles Knights. He's a ladies' man who makes no secret of his reluctance to mentor a pint-sized 13-year-old basketball whiz who outshines him on the court.

The filmmakers take pains to set up their clever premise before running with it. Bow Wow's Calvin Cambridge lives in an orphanage not far from the Staples Center, where the Knights are doing so poorly that announcer Frank Bernard (Eugene Levy), as a promotional gimmick, holds raffles in which a lucky ticket holder goes one-on-one with Chestnut's Tracey Reynolds.

The Knights' kindly Coach Wagner (Robert Forster) has given Calvin free tickets and, sure enough, he's the winner.

Much to the amazement of all, the 4-foot-8 boy trounces the star, for Calvin happens to be wearing magical sneakers.

The Knights promptly sign Calvin, and Tracey is made his roommate. That the boy might cramp his style as a playboy is but the tip of the iceberg: Having rejected his own father, he resents Calvin's open craving for a dad. Tracey's journey within himself and with Calvin takes the film to a new and serious level. In this way, Like Mike, a well-crafted film, may well deliver audiences a richer experience than they had anticipated.

Kevin Thomas writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Like Mike

Starring Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut

Directed by John Schultz

Rated PG (brief language)

Released by Fox

Running time 100 minutes

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