In a present day Los Angeles orphanage full of boys and girls eagerly awaiting adoption, lives 14-year-old Calvin Cambridge (Lil’ Bow Wow). Shooting hoops with friends Murph (Jonathan Lipnicki) and Reg (Brenda Song) is his fun, and playing in the NBA is his dream, but for the most part his days are filled battling Ox (Jesse Pemons), the house bully and keeping one step ahead of Stan Bittleman (Crispin Glover), the shady orphanage director.
Digging through some donated clothing, Calvin is thrilled to find a pair of mysterious sneakers that fit his feet perfectly. Even more interesting is the faded “MJ,” with the accompanying story that the shoes were once owned by a now-famous basketball player. Lacing them up, Calvin is suddenly able to run and score like never before.
Even more amazing is the series of fortunate events that bring Calvin to a one-on-one with hot player Tracey Reynolds during a half-time promotional stint. Expecting the puny teen to be a pushover, the pro is dunked and skunked when Calvin drops three hoops to win a grand. Eager to have a new gimmick to keep fans coming, team manager Frank Bernard (Eugene Levy) signs Calvin onto the roster. But with his growing popularity and wealth, Ox and Bittleman decide to try a different game plan.
A crowded Dickinson-esque orphanage under selfish rule can hardly be called unique, but with the recent parade of kid’s movies dwelling on bathroom humor and violent conflict, this familiar formula is refreshingly devoid of sexual innuendo and flatulence jokes. Bonus points are earned for limiting the “bad guys” plot (which consists of a few scenes of bullying and tying up Bittleman) and sexual content (mainly shots of cheerleaders).
Parents’ only other concerns involves a sequence showing Calvin rescuing his beloved shoes from a power line during a lightening storm and the oft repeated (but never explained) idea that food from hotel room service is free.
Exploring issues of working together, parental relationships, and caring for friends along with the typical sports movie finale, there are some good reasons to Like Mike.