"More than a 'B'-grade kid flick"
Dir. John Schultz; writ: Michael Elliotk; feat. Lil' Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut, Jonathan Lipnicki, Brenda Song, Jesse Plemons, Julius Ritter (PG)
If you want to get deep about it, Like Mike is a romantic comedy wrapped in a high-concept fantasy like Big (1988). Lil' Bow Wow is Calvin Cambridge, an orphan without much game on the court and few prospects of being adopted into the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air family that he dreams about. Calvin and his friends are getting a little too long in the tooth: "Face it. We're like dogs. Parents only want the puppies," says Ox, the orphanage's bully, just to bring the other kids down. Things change when a box of used clothes shows up and a pair of old basketball shoes ends up fitting Calvin like Cinderella's slipper. The initials "M.J." are written under the tongue and that can only stand for Michael Jordan as far as Calvin is concerned.
After a few hassles and a freak accident that leaves the shoes magically charmed, not only has Calvin got game, but he's got it on an M.J. tip, leaping from the key in the trademarked silhouette of the one and only Air Jordan. Soon Calvin is on a national team after shooting the lights out on its star player Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut). Of course, Coach Wagner (Robert Forster) makes Reynolds responsible for "C-Dog," as Calvin comes to call himself, and an odd-couple love-hate relationship gets started between the two with all the shenanigans and high jinks you might expect.
Like Mike is nearly everything you usually get in a kids' movie: fantasy, laughs, pint-sized David vs. Goliath adventure, and tear-jerking melodrama with a feel-good ending. But the power is in the shoes more than in Calvin, making the movie seem like a sneaky and expensive sneaker ad. Like Mike could have been as empowering a kid flick as Spy Kids, but — to parody the tag line of Calvin's magic shoes — they just blew it. — James Keith La Croix
THE CROCODILE HUNTER: COLLISION COURSE
"Like the TV show, but longer"
Dir. John Stainton; feat. Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin, Magda Szubanski, David Wenham, Lachy Hulme, Kenneth Ransom, Kate Beahan, and Steve Bastoni (PG)
What can you say about the movie-version of the Discovery Channel's Crocodile Hunter? You know the acting's all "oh crikey" and "whoo hoo! That's a big sheila," the didgeridoo will feature prominently in the soundtrack, and "man's encroachment on the animal kingdom" is what makes guys like Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter, a hot cable — and now big screen — commodity.
When a top-secret U.S. satellite crashes in North Queensland, it brings the CIA, a black-box eating crocodile, and the Irwins on a "collision course" against the backdrop of Australia's lush outback.
At times the movie plays like a plug for the Irwins' Australia Zoo, one sequence doubles as Steve's "greatest hits" reel, and most of the animal wrestling shots are filmed for television, not the widescreen. Otherwise, it's fun to see Terri Irwin, the Linda McCartney of animal husbandry, causing the problems that make it look like Steve may actually lose one to the crocs. At this screening, most of the audience was kids, and the simple, inoffensive humor of Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course suited them just fine. — John Brewer