Like Mike (Cert PG)


A film with an even more tenuous hold on reality is this week's Hollywood punt for the family market - a little sports fantasy called Like Mike.

In this, a black orphan boy (played by the minuscule rapper Lil Bow Wow, a protégé I am told of Snoop Doggy Dogg) finds a pair of magic training shoes that enable him to play basketball as brilliantly as his hero, Michael Jordan.

Almost precisely the same storyline served a British movie of two years ago, There's Only One Jimmy Grimble (in which the youthful hero came by a pair of magic soccer boots). Like Mike approaches the subject-matter with more gloss but less originality.

American child audiences doubtless thrilled to the sight of a child doing better than the established stars of the game, but most of these sports heroes are unknown over here and it's hard to see why anyone has bothered to release this in British cinemas.

The story has its cute and funny moments, but it drowns in treacly sentiment; and the sheer predictability of the storyline makes it an ordeal for grown-ups.

There's something deeply oldfashioned about the portrayal of the orphanage, and the children who compete like puppies for the attention of prospective parents. And the effects are so ludicrously over-the-top they beggar belief, with Lil Bow Wow performing athletic leaps that the cast of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon would envy.

One of the most depressing aspects is to see four of the most skilled, quirky actors in Hollywood - Eugene Levy, Robert Forster, Crispin Glover and Ann Meara (Ben Stiller's mum) - playing characters that are cliched and totally unworthy of their talents, in a film that amounts to little more than a feature-length advertisement for the National Basketball Association and Nike shoes.

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