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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Like Mike (2002)

"I'm not short, I'm height-challenged!"
- Calvin (Lil Bow Wow)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 08, 2002

Stars: Lil Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut
Other Stars: Jonathan Lipnicki, Robert Forster, Crispin Glover, Eugene Levy
Director: John Schultz

MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language
Run Time: 01h:39m:58s
Release Date: December 10, 2002
UPC: 024543057024
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-BB B-

DVD Review

When my brother and I were kids, we used to love getting new shoes at the beginning of the school year. We were convinced that shiny new sneakers gave us the power to run faster and jump higher—a rush only matched by the secret pleasure of new Super Mario underpants. Of course, our enhanced abilities were only the stuff of hyperactivity from too many sodas. In Like Mike, a young boy comes across a magical pair of shoes that actually do give him amazing athletic ability, and their gifts (and a lot of luck) take him all the way to the NBA.

Calvin Cambridge (pint-sized rapper Lil Bow Wow) has lived at an orphanage most of his life. He pals around with buddy Murph (the half pint-sized Jonathan Lipnicki), shooting baskets and trying to stay out of the way of the local bully (who, like all movie bullies, is the only young cast member who has felt the sting of puberty). He dreams of a better life, swearing that one day he'll having a family just like Will Smith on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but, as one of the kids eloquently puts it, "Orphans are like dogs: Parents only want the puppies." Calvin's life changes when someone donates a pair of ragged old shoes with "MJ" stenciled on them; he's convinced they belonged to Michael Jordan, and his boasts cause the bully to toss the shoes onto a telephone wire. In a scene sure to give parents the willies, Calvin climbs up to retrieve them in the middle of a rainstorm and is struck by lightening, but all's well that ends well, because the electricity enchants the product-placed Nikes. Now whenever he's wearing them, Calvin can shoot like a pro and dunk from the free throw line.

Lil Bow Wow, despite his ludicrous self-appointed moniker, comes off quite well in his first major acting job. He's got loads of charisma (which is probably easy when you are used to performing in front of thousands of screaming girls) to make up for his stiff mannerisms during the more emotional scenes (particularly his various "pining for a mommy" scenes). He's best once the fun part begins—through a fantastically contrived series of events, Calvin is picked up as a publicity stunt by the floundering Los Angeles Knights. The coach (Robert Forster) actually decides to let him play, and he, of course, turns the team around. Bow Wow handles himself believably on the court and does well with his humorous banter with his teammates, most of them real NBA stars. He forms a special bond with Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut), despite his gruff "I don't like kids" attitude. If only he had a dad like that. Hmmm...

Though at times it feels like a virtual remake of the baseball-themed Rookie of the Year (with a Red Shoes twist), Like Mike manages to inject some weird humor into the sports/melodrama mix to keep things interesting, particularly in the form of Crispin Glover, who plays the rather unbalanced head of Calvin's orphanage who gets involved with a scheme to keep the boy from getting adopted so he can continue to profit from his NBA contract. Here the movie falters a bit, playing into the usual "kids thwart the adults through violent trickery" clichés, but Glover is still a credit to the cast, and a bizarre fascination to watch.

Director John Schultz elevates the occasionally cloying script with his snappy direction, managing to capture the energy of the basketball scenes and the humor of a short kid in the world of very tall men. Like Mike offers few surprises, but it's a solid family film. I'm using it as a template for my new screenplay, In the Woods, about a magical green sport coat. Stunningly original, they'll say.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Fox has included both full-frame and 1.85:1 widescreen transfers on opposite sides of a DVD-10. Both look about the same, with the open matte full frame image adding more to the top and bottom of the screen. The widescreen image looks decent, but it's not perfect. Colors are nice and solid, for the most part (sometimes there is some color bleed when bright blue and black are contrasted), and though black level is good, shadow delineation could be better—several darker scenes look a bit muddy. The source materials look fine, though I did note artifacting here and there. Not bad, but not as good as most releases from Fox.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 English audio mix is fairly plain. Dialogue is nicely centered and always clear, and the front mains handle most of the action with good directionality. The surrounds come into play mostly to offer atmospheric support—cheering during the basketball scenes, rain and thunder during the rain sequences—or to spread out the score a bit. Certainly this front-heavy mix is suitable to the film; just don't expect a lot of surround action.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Daredevil
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director John Schultz, stars Lil Bow Wow and Jonathan Lipnicki
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Lil Bow Wow music video, Basketball
Extras Review: Once again, Fox has produced a fine disc for a children's film that doesn't cater to the stereotypical "family" audience—there's still a widescreen transfer and some more "mature" supplements. The extras are split over both sides of the disc.

Both the full and widescreen versions include a commentary from director John Schultz and actors Lil Bow Wow and Jonathan Lipnicki. If Schultz were recorded alone, this would probably be a pretty dull affair, but the participation of the two youngsters keeps things interesting, as they bring a fresh and often humorously innocent perspective to the business of moviemaking. For the most part, Schultz shares production stories while the kids comment on things on-screen, or he asks them questions (Lil Bow Wow, for the record, thought Crispin Glover "weird"—so what else is new?). Halfway through, Bow Wow has to leave, first to go to the bathroom and them to get ready for the film's premiere (they were recorded on the day of).

The widescreen side also includes the 20-minute Off the Hook and On the Set documentary. Far from the usual puff piece, it's a cute video diary that follows the film from the rehersals to the final ADR sessions. Recorded and directed by the cast's acting coach, Sarah Whalen, the piece is totally free of the usual PR interviews and film clips. There is a lot of great production footage of the kids goofing off between takes, and some nice trivia about the process as well (for example, the climactic big game had to be reshot a scant month before the film was released to switch opponents from the Lakers to the Raptors).

The full-frame side includes the rest of the features. Bow Wow's Bow IS the usual puff piece, a six-minute segment that's half film clips, half bland interviews with the cast and crew. The writer, Michael Elliot, does make a few interesting comments—noteably that it was but a year from the day he began writing the script to the day the film was released—but this is a "watch once" affair.

Three deleted scenes are offered with optional director commentary. More accurately, they are three separate deleted scenes montages, offering cut jokes or bits of clipped subplots. Worth a look for fans, but mostly this material belongs right where it is.

Finally, there's the Bow Wow music video for Basketball and a trailer for the upcoming superhero flick Daredevil. The trailer for the feature, which was attached to nearly every movie I saw this summer, has not been included.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Like Mike is yet another entry in the "kids/sports wish-fulfillment" genre, and a fairly decent one at that. The sappy emotional subplots and hyperactive "kids vs. adults" sequences may grate a bit, but the charismatic lead performance from Lil Bow Wow and the slick basketball footage manage to balance the scales. Fox's DVD is quite nice, with better than average features, and it earns a recommendation for family video night. Swish!

 


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