'Million Dollar Arm' review: Jon Hamm's latest a feel-good crowd pleaser

Rating

3 Stars3/5

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:56 PM ET

Million Dollar Arm is a crowd pleaser about two of America's greatest pastimes: baseball and xenophobia.

Overlong but endearing, the movie follows real life sports agent J.B. Bernstein (played by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) struggling to establish himself. He just can't get any big athletes to sign with him.

His personal life is likewise flailing, and he has no long-term relationships — probably because he's so obsessed with work that he fails to see what's right in front of him, like the intelligent beauty (Lake Bell) who happens to be a tenant on his property.

Eventually, he comes up with the idea of going to India to look for new pitching talent among the country's cricket players. Recruiting for Major League baseball is a simple matter of setting up a contest inspired by American Idol — invite one and all to try out, and offer huge cash prizes and the chance to play ball in America.

Our agent goes to India (culture shock!) and comes back with two talented young athletes who have won a life-altering chance to play baseball in the United States.

Now it's the Indian pitchers' turn to experience culture shock, as they attempt to learn baseball, master English and adjust to a lifestyle full of hustle and pizza.

Will they ever be good enough to get on a team?

Will the agent's gamble pay off?

And will he, in the process, learn to stop and smell the roses, value family, embrace humility and realize that everything he wants is right in his own backyard? Literally?

Based on Bernstein’s true story, and his work with Indian baseball players Rinku Singh (with the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league organization) and Dinesh Patel (who had a brief stint with the Pirates as well), Million Dollar Arm is a feel-good movie about striving and achieving. As storytelling goes, it's all over the place, trying to juggle sports, romance, travelogue, the American Dream and too many fish out of water.

Luckily, a terrific cast that includes Alan Arkin, Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi), Bill Paxton, Pitobash Tripathy and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) holds this unwieldy thing together. (Bill Paxton, Jon Hamm or Lake Bell in the cast of any film is generally a good sign.)

The skill of the players is enough to transform a clunky script into pleasant family/sports fare, and while the cynical may not be left with a warm and fuzzy feeling, everyone else will be.

The comedic chemistry between Hamm and Bell is what's worth watching here.

Twitter: @LizBraunSun

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca

 


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