Directed by John Schultz, starring Lil' Bow Wow, Jonathan Lipnicki, Morris Chestnut, Brenda Song, Jesse Plemons, Julius Charles Ritter, Crispin Glover, Anne Meara, Robert Forester.

Less a film and more a 99-minute commercial for teenage rapper Lil' Bow Wow and the National Basketball Association, 'Like Mike' is an unimaginative cross marketing ploy.

Fourteen-year-old orphan Calvin Cambridge (Lil' Bow Wow) lives in the very Dickensian Chesterfield Group Home with his friends Murph (Lipnicki) and Reg (Song). They all dream of being adopted but instead are in the care of scheming Bittleman (Glover), the guardian of the home.

When Calvin finds an old pair of Nike sneakers marked with the initials MJ he immediately jumps to the conclusion that they could only have belonged to king of American basketball, Michael Jordan. After a strange electrical accident involving the sneakers, Calvin outplays NBA star Tracey Reynolds (Chestnut) at a halftime show and is promptly signed up by his favorite club, the Los Angeles Knights. Although their original intention is to use him as a mascot, Calvin isn't going to let himself be sidelined for long and soon he - and his superskill - is the star of the show, bringing the Knights all the way to the playoffs.

So far, so 'Rookie of the Year' meets 'Space Jam'. But 'Like Mike', as well as being a collection of clichés, is also drenched in the sickly sweet syrup of sentiment. Although Calvin's slam-dunkin' brings him fame and fortune, all he really wants is his own father - and the obligatory happy ending which director John Schultz does his damnest to shoehorn into the story, no matter how unlikely.

Although it's a showcase for Lil' Bow Wow, his lack of acting skills aren't really a problem, surrounded as he is by even more wooden NBA players in mercifully brief cameos. Crispin Glover also gets into the spirit of things by chewing the scenery in an alarming, Miss Hannigan-like manner. They are all put to shame by Robert Forster, Anne Meara and Eugene Levy - Coach Wagner, Sister Theresa and Frank Bernard - who try do their best in a largely talent-free zone. And, another cynical marketing ploy this, despite the film's title, there's no sign of Mr Jordan.

'Like Mike' involves so much suspension of disbelief that you may as well be hanging from the hoop yourself. Only for basketball freaks who might get a five minute thrill out of seeing their heroes on the big screen. On the other hand - why bother? Get 'Space Jam' out on video instead for the real Mike.

Caroline Hennessy