Not having seen the original Like Mike, Judge Neal Masri was completely lost.
"Sometimes I dream that he is me"—1992 Gatorade Ad Campaign.
This direct-to-DVD sequel to 2002's moderately successful Like Mike breaks out the magic shoes once again.
Facts of the Case
A pair of magical high tops once belonging to Michael Jordan bestow upon their wearer mad hoop skillz. The shoes, with the mysterious initials MJ written in them, give young Jerome Jenkins the ability to dominate the world of streetball and make him famous. His newfound celebrity, however, comes with a cost.
In the interest of fairness, I should disclose that I have not seen the original Like Mike. Consequently, I am reviewing this movie based solely upon my impressions of it and not as a sequel.
Like Mike 2: Streetball takes it's title from a catchy song in a 1992 Gatorade commercial (seriously, from a commercial jingle). The story revolves around 14 year old Jerome Jenkins, Jr. (Jascha Washington, Big Momma's House 2). Jerome Jr.'s father, Jerome Sr. (Michael Beach, Soul Food), is a former streetball legend once destined for the NBA until a mistake ended his basketball dreams. It is Jerome's fondest dream to live up to his dad's expectations by becoming a basketball superstar.
Jerome Jr.'s parents are divorced and his dad doesn't have a lot of time for him. One lonely night while shooting hoops in his driveway, Jerome finds a pair of vintage Nike high tops trimmed in Carolina Blue with the initials MJ written in them. Later that night, the shoes are imbued with magic by a stray bolt of lightening.
When Jerome wears them the next day at a streetball tournament, he suddenly has incredible basketball skills and schools an older, bigger player. Via hit and miss special effects, Jerome leaps incredibly high and makes impossible shots. He is quickly discovered and sets out with a touring streetball team. Jerome's screw-up uncle Ray (Kel Mitchell, Mystery Men) chaperones Jerome on the tour as Jerome's celebrity grows. As fame and fortune come his way, Jerome finds himself alienated from his family and friends.
Like Mike 2: Streetball does have its fair share of clichés. Of course, we get the sports movie mantra about the purity of the game. If you're not doing it for the love of the game, then you're playing for the wrong reasons. Just like the pros, right? Of course, as in all sports movies, things come to a head in a pivotal game. Does anyone doubt that Jerome will eventually find his center as he grows closer to his estranged father?
The movie espouses life lessons about teamwork, self-esteem, friendship and family. Young Jascha Washington has a pleasant screen presence and makes for a sympathetic and likable protagonist. Even at the height of his basketball hubris, you can see in his character a decent core. There are no real villains in the movie (except for a silly caricature basketball opponent). The conflicts stem from decent people who make the wrong choices. Anyone who has ever seen a sports- or family-oriented film will quickly figure out exactly how the third act turns out.
Video is sharp as it should be for a recent release like this one. Colors are strong and no compression artifacts are present. Audio is mainly dialogue focused with bass and surrounds kicking in to accentuate the movie's hip-hop soundtrack. There are three featurettes included. Making Like Mike 2 is a pretty typical behind the scenes puff piece. It consists of interviews spliced together with a bit of behind the scenes footage. We're Playing Basketball covers the cast's real life experience with the game. Streetball talks a bit about the culture of streetball and its influence on former NBA great Clyde Drexler. There are also six deleted scenes included. The scenes mainly consist of a few extra character development moments.
Like Mike 2: Streetball is aimed at a younger audience that likely has only vague recollections of the days when Michael Jordan was the undisputed king of basketball. That said, Jordan (who does not appear in this movie) is one of those rare sports icons who transcends the game he played and is a cultural icon. But I do wonder how many young kids even know to whom the title of the film refers. If there is a third installment, I suggest the calling it Like LeBron.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The plot and outcome of this movie are completely predictable from the first moment on. However, I suppose that is true of most any movie aimed at kids. There isn't much of a market for really depressing and shocking kids flicks.
Like Mike 2: Streetball is light, non-offensive kiddie fare. There is a solid moral message to the film and the 'tween audience (especially basketball fans) will likely enjoy it. Adults, however, need not apply. On a completely unrelated note, this is the first kids movie I've seen in a long time that did not at some point turn to flatulence for laughs. That was refreshing.
This is a good-natured movie that young audiences will probably enjoy. Not guilty.
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