Like Mike is supposed to be funny and sentimental, and make you want to see NBA basketball games ‘cuz the players are big, bad and sexy. It is and it does. It’s also predictable, shallow and so misogynist it should have a warning to parents. I suggest an addition to the MPAA rating code: PGG (Parental Guidance about Girls), which means “Parents who want to raise children who respect girls and women should avoid this movie.” Like Mike’s filmmaker guys probably thought they were saintly by making a movie about men and boys in which no one cursed. Admirable, yes. But when you have an entire movie about children in which the women either don’t exist or are seen as second-string stereotypes — politically correct Asian playmate, nasty nun, short-skirted one-nighter, brainless potential adoptee mother, background eye-candy cheerleader — you realize that the unconscious attitude toward women in itself is obscene, and maybe a few verbal profanities might have been welcome instead. Young rapper Lil’ Bow Wow (age 15) is without a doubt the most endearing kid to come along in ages; he makes a terrific starring debut. He’s one of many castoff kids at a Dickensian orphanage in downtown Los Angeles run by sleazy greed-meister Crispin Glover (Back to the Future). Bow Wow and his friends (including heartbreaker Jonathan Lipnicki, The Little Vampire) despair of achieving their most desperate dream: As older kids, they face a tragically low chance of being adopted. One stormy night, Bow Wow’s hand-me-down tennis shoes get electrocuted. When he wears them afterwards, amazing things happen: Shrimpy Bow Wow (he’s only 4-feet-6) can run, jump, leap, dribble, dodge and hit the hoop even better than Michael Jordan himself. Bow Wow is discovered by the local team in need of an attendance boost, and his magical shenanigans on the courts turn around their losing streak. He’s mentored, most reluctantly, by drop-dead gorgeous bachelor Morris Chestnut (Two Can Play This Game) who turns in his usual dignified, low-key performance. Like all buddy movies, Chestnut and Bow Wow have their difficulties in the beginning. But time smoothes over their differences, and the eternal connection between boys eventually bonds them into an unbreakable duo. Bow Wow learns such adult things as how to use room service to make yourself sick, and Chestnut learns he has to give up his childhood baggage in order to handle a kid. The game scenes in which Bow Wow demonstrates his short moxie against the towering NBA players are really hilarious. Nothing’s more fun for kids than getting the better of adults, so Like Mike does deliver in the fantasy-satisfaction department. Maybe the next fantasy director John Schultz (Drive Me Crazy) conjures could include girls’ dreams of being full members of grown-up life.
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