[box cover]

Like Mike

It's a hard-knock life for Calvin Cambridge (Lil' Bow Wow) — the teenage orphan likes playing basketball and hanging out with his friends, but the thing he wants most in life is a family. The only problem is, at 13, he's a bit past the age of desirable adoptability, and every time his orphanage holds an open house the prospective parents wind up playing with the little kids. So it's back to the blacktop, where Calvin shoots hoops with pals Murph (Jonathan Lipnicki) and Reg (Brenda Song), always careful not to draw the ire of resident bully Ox (Jesse Plemons). It's after Calvin comes across a pair of hand-me-down Nikes with the initials "MJ" written inside that strange things start to happen — he finds out just how powerful those sneaks are when he gets to play one-on-one with L.A. Knights star Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut) at a halftime event and gets three buckets. It's regarded as a fluke, of course, but the team's general manager (Eugene Levy) signs Calvin to a one-game contract as a publicity stunt, unaware that the 4'8" powerhouse will soon lead the team to the NBA playoffs. There's nothing revelatory about Like Mike, but it's certainly an appealing family film, particularly considering that so many all-ages movies today are too noisy or just bland. Compared to Pokemon or recent Disney animation, Like Mike plays like a throwback to the days of live-action Disney films and their potent mix of fantasy-events and familial dramas. As Calvin, rapper Lil' Bow Wow carries the central role with a likable, energetic performance that's amusing and never stilted, and he has several good child co-stars, in particular Jonathan Lipnicki as his shy best friend. Chief among the adult actors is Morris Chestnut as the NBA star who becomes Cavlin's mentor, and the supporting crew includes Eugene Levy, Anne Meara, Robert Forster, and Crispin Glover as the devious orphanage administrator. Of course, you can't have a movie about pro basketball without a few real-life ballers — thanks to a two-day shoot during the All-Star Weekend, the film is littered with hoops superstars, including Allan Iverson, Gary Payton, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and many others. It looks like all of the players had fun on the shoot (watch the credits for outtakes), and no wonder the NBA agreed to participate — the league's million-dollar egos may never come across this affably ever again. Fox's DVD release of Like Mike features a clean anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Features include a commentary with Lil' Bow Wow, Jonathan Lipnicki, and director John Schultz, and the behind-the-scenes featurette "Off the Hook and On the Set," compiled by acting coach Sarah Whalen from her own behind-the-scenes videotapes. (Please note that this reviewer could not locate any other special features noted on the disc's packaging). Keep-case.

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