Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Jon Hamm, Pitobash, Alan Arkin, Madhur Mittal, Suraj Sharma, Aasif Mandvi, Lake Bell, Bill Paxton
Jon Hamm trades in his Don Draper suits for a baseball cap as sports agent J.B. Bernstein. His agency is losing money faster than it’s coming in, and he and his two business partners are on the verge of losing their careers unless a drastic move is made. His colleague Aash (Mandvi) is obsessed with cricket, but J.B. does not see the point of it and thinks it pales in comparison to baseball. That all changes late one night when J.B. starts flipping channels between Britain’s Got Talent and a game of cricket in India when a career saving idea pops into his head. He wants to create a reality show style competition in India hoping to attract cricket players and in turn find the next best pitcher in Major League Baseball.
When he arrives in India, the culture shock is a bit alarming to him. The lifestyle is quite the opposite of the normal Los Angeles pace he leads. After seeing hundreds of young men come and line-up for their shot on “Million Dollar Arm”, he sees the potential that could be had. J.B. and retired coach Ray (Arkin) sit through countless of failed try-outs until Rinku (Sharma) and Dinesh (Mittal) show up and may just have the golden arm they are all looking for. The boys head to California to train with USC pitching coach Tom House (Paxton), while J.B.’s career is riding on if they can learn baseball fast enough to get signed by professional teams.
The film follows in the footsteps of many other Disney sports films that are based on a true story like: Miracle, The Rookie, and Remember the Titans. Have we now reached a point where this is too many? Has the genre already grown tired? Million Dollar Arm is beyond predictable in every possible way from the supporting characters to the plot points and conflict. I felt like I already knew the general outline of this script and the writers just changed the names and the sport involved. You probably already knew that our main character was going to be a cocky businessman who only cares about his job and how much money he is making instead of his actual clients. There will be some cute girlfriend type that puts our main character in his place after he becomes a jerk. Of course there is going to be some old retired cranky coach. The ballplayers will no doubt be completely out of their element. With so much of this story played with that Disney sheen to it, I questioned how authentic it was to the true story. That being said, I always enjoy seeing the photo and video montage during the credits of the real life inspirations, and that was one of the highlights of the movie.
Jon Hamm has made a few movies while he has been on hiatus from Mad Men, but he tends to do more supporting roles like Bridesmaids or Friends with Kids. As J.B. Bernstein, he goes back to leading role status, but his character seems far too similar to Don Draper at times. This comes across in a way that he seems to be a bit bored here. I don’t question him as an actor as I am a big Mad Men fan, and I have liked him in other roles. His character is so unlikeable that I wanted him to open up more and show a bit more warmth. I wonder if the real J.B. was really like that. We have seen Alan Arkin (Grudge Match, Little Miss Sunshine) play numerous characters like this cranky coach. He can do this role in his sleep, and conveniently enough, his character spends a majority of the film with his head down or completely asleep. Is he the new Morgan Freeman where we can expect him to play the same type of character in each movie? There are some saving graces here as Lake Bell (It’s Complicated) is completely charming as Brenda, J.B.’s tenant who is renting out the pool house. While there is sexual tension between the two characters, she is not merely a bimbo attached to his hip the whole movie. I suppose that wouldn’t be Disney friendly. Audiences may recognize Suraj Sharma who plays Rinku. He was phenomenal a few years ago in Life of Pi. I’m glad to see he’s getting more work.
I admire the idea behind taking both parties and putting them into worlds and cultures they are not used to and watching them grow in the process. It was interesting to watch J.B. Berstein quickly adapt to the Indian style of doing business, the driving, and the food and how vastly different it is than the L.A. pace he lives. The same goes for Dinesh and Rinku when they land in America for the first time. I think they could have delved into this concept a bit more to give it the full effect. There is so much to learn when you are a fish out of water. I am sure Disney and director Craig Gillespie (Fright Night, Lars and the Real Girl) want Million Dollar Arm to be one of those feel good inspirational sports films. I suppose some moviegoers will feel that way, but I didn’t come out cheering. There are so many other baseball movies that pull at the heartstrings and get the audience rooting for our characters that this one falls flat in comparison.
Is it worth your trip to the movies? At one point we see Jon Hamm and Lake Bell watching The Pride of the Yankees. I’d recommend watching that baseball movie instead.
RATING: 2 out of 5 Ticket Stubs