Is "Like Mike" merely a long commercial meant to boost the image of the NBA and the career of a 15-year-old "youngsta" rapper named Bow Wow?
Or is it a sweet fairy tale with a message that honesty, love, and hard work do make dreams come true?
It's both, of course.
Whether it's for you or your children may depend on whether you're a fan of the NBA, or the undeniably charming Bow Wow, or whether you just like your movies dripping with heartwarming sentiment.
Calvin Cambridge (Bow Wow), an undersized 14-year-old living in a Los Angeles orphanage, finds a pair of old basketball shoes with the initials "M.J." Convinced that he's wearing Michael Jordan's discarded sneakers, Calvin becomes a superhuman basketball player, swishing every shot from "downtown" and throwing down dunks despite his 4 ft., 8 in. height.
He catches on with the woeful Los Angeles Knights (think L.A. Clippers), first as merely a publicity gimmick but later as the key player leading them to their first-ever berth in the NBA playoffs.
But will the orphanage's bully or its evil administrator (played with just the right quirky touch by Crispin Glover) ruin everything? And can he fulfill his even bigger dream to be adopted into a loving home?
A few hundred million dollars' worth of NBA talent, including Jason Kidd and Vince Carter (but not Michael Jordan), shows up in cameo roles. Morris Chestnut is appealing as the Knights' star player, who at first rejects Calvin and then slowly warms to him. The other kid actors are fine, not too cloying, and Robert Forster is a refreshing rock of integrity as the Knights' coach.
The depiction of the challenges older children face in seeking adoption, as well the hopes offered by single-parent and interracial adoption, underscores the film with a worthwhile message.
"Like Mike" is as ingratiating as that famous Michael Jordan grin, which Calvin imitates to open the movie. If you'd like a sweet and simple story where the final score is never in doubt, lace 'em up and head to the theater.
Rated PG for mild language.