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Bob Waliszewski

Movie Review

At the Chesterfield Group Home orphanage, it’s pretty much an accepted fact that prospective parents are looking to adopt “puppies” (younger children), certainly not the old “dogs” like Calvin Cambridge and his best friends Murph and Reg. But that doesn’t keep Calvin from hoping that possibly someday he’ll find a loving home. In the meantime, Calvin finds a pair of used basketball shoes (in a pile of donated clothes) inscribed with the initials “MJ.” When Calvin’s only adult ally, Sister Theresa, informs him the shoes once belonged to a “famous basketball player,” Calvin becomes convinced the owner was none other than Michael Jordan himself. But the shoes are just ordinary, well-worn basketball shoes until they get zapped with electricity during a thunderstorm. That’s when they begin to infuse their wearer with extra-natural—sometimes supernatural—sports skills.

Through a stroke of good fortune, Calvin lands tickets to see an NBA game and his favorite, but losing team, the L.A. Knights. And through an even greater stroke of good fortune, it’s Calvin that gets picked in a drawing to go one-on-one against Knights’ star Tracey Reynolds for a chance to win $1,000. And with the MJ sneakers on his feet, Calvin puts some serious “like Mike” moves on Tracey. A witness to the “miracle,” team manager Frank Bernard has a brainstorm. Why not sign the kid to a one-game contract and use the publicity to fill some seats? Calvin and his shoes are more than up for the challenge and they dazzle the crowd once again (to Tracey’s dismay and Frank’s glee). So Calvin becomes part of the team. Will his newfound fame bring him a family?

positive elements: The importance of family is central to Like Mike. Not only do Calvin and his friends want to be part of one, but Calvin can’t understand why Tracey is at odds with his father, and works to bring the two together (“How can you have a dad and not talk to him?”). Friendship, too, is highly valued. When Calvin and Murph are at odds, Tracey steps in to reunite them (“Good friends are hard to come by”). Sister Theresa stresses the importance of doing well in school and keeping up with homework. When Tracey wants nothing to do with Calvin, another Knight player befriends him (“Take the locker next to mine”). And even Tracey comes around and begins hanging out with Calvin and Murph. Gambling proves to be a man’s undoing. Calvin learns to take responsibility for his actions and makes mature decisions about his “career” by desiring family over fame.

spiritual content: Sister Theresa, a teacher, is a positive role model. As an NBA player, Calvin encourages his roommate, Tracey, to join him for nightly prayers. A reluctant Tracey gets on his knees and recites along with Calvin, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” But Calvin takes this prayer a step further and begins to ask for God’s blessing on certain individuals including Tracey (something that impresses the NBA pro). At one point, Calvin offers another prayer of sorts (“Make me like Mike”), but it’s unclear to whom he’s praying or if he’s just talking to his shoes. First on Calvin’s list of famous adopted people is “Moses” (“Moses had a destiny”). Calvin crosses his fingers to gain good luck in winning the drawing. Tracey listens to self-hypnosis tapes on an airplane.

sexual content: The cheerleaders for the L.A. Knights prance around in skimpy outfits. Tracey breaks curfew and brings a date up to his (and Calvin’s) hotel room.

violent content: Ox pushes and shoves Calvin several times, once in an effort to take his shoes. Calvin rams his scooter into a man’s groin. The kids also tape a man to his chair. People are accidentally knocked over; Calvin drives a car over some construction signs; Murph wipes out on his motorized scooter; an out of control vending cart runs into a man. The head of the orphanage begins to burn a picture of Murph’s mom to extract information from the kid.

crude or profane language:“D–n” is spoken several times (and used in a song). Calvin also uses “dang” as a milder substitute. Frank wants to “put some a–es in those seats,” speaking of his desire to boost game attendance.

drug and alcohol content: Distracted by a pretty girl, Tracey confuses sleeping pills with alergy medicine and ends up knocked out.

other negative elements: Power company Pacific Gas and Electric has issued a statement saying that Like Mike could be harmful to children because of the scene in which Calvin retrieves his MJ sneakers from a power line. “These are high-voltage power lines . . . and the little kid doesn’t stand a chance,” says a rep for the west coast utility. Southern California Edison vice president Dick Rosenblum said, “We’re concerned the Like Mike plot could encourage an unsuspecting child to attempt a copycat prank of touching a power line or snagging a pair of shoes in the lines. The bottom line is that electricity and pranks don’t mix. It’s a terrible idea to tamper with or try to retrieve something from a power line.”

Several characters, including Calvin, lie. Tracey tells his date that his messy hotel room is due to a maid failing to clean (it’s actually because of Calvin). Tracey says he has no parents (his father is alive). Calvin tells Sister Theresa he’s ready for a geometry test when he’s not. The movie also does a disservice by giving a thumbs up to mainstream rap—most of which is deeply problematic. In addition to the movie’s star being a rapper known for his egocentric rhymes, rap in general plays a prominent role here. In one scene, Calvin and Tracey try to outdo each other in a rap duel, singing a verse that applauds the troublesome rap group, the Ruff Ryderz. Calvin develops a serious case of gluttony using room service to order practically everything on the menu.

conclusion: There’s plenty to like about Mike. Family. Friendship. Self-sacrifice. Watch out for a few jolts of negative electricity, but this high-flying basketball flick is worth considering.

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Bob Waliszewski