Jon Hamm makes OK entertainment from inspirational sports movie cliches in Million Dollar Arm | Film Review | Indy Week
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Jon Hamm makes OK entertainment from inspirational sports movie cliches in Million Dollar Arm 

click to enlarge Jon Hamm in Million Dollar Arm

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Jon Hamm in Million Dollar Arm

In MILLION DOLLAR ARM, which is based on a true story, the man who will soon no longer be Don Draper stars as J.B. Bernstein, a once-successful sports agent looking for the next big thing to keep him afloat. While flipping TV channels between an Indian cricket match and the star-making clip of Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent, he gets the idea to scour Indian cricket for the next great American baseball pitcher.

After traveling to India and holding an extensive reality-show tryout contest, he finds two unlikely candidates (Slumdog Millionaire's Madhur Mittal and Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma). Of course, wacky culture-clashing ensues once Bernstein brings them to Los Angeles to train, also becoming their unlikely caretaker.

It doesn't take long for Jon Hamm's playboy character to put his hustle on pause and appreciate the simple things in life, thanks to his international guests. This is a Disney movie, after all, and director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) follows the inspirational sports movie rulebook to the letter, maintaining an earnest, inoffensive tone. (I do wonder how Indian audiences will feel about seeing their homeland portrayed as a quirky, adorably corrupt place.) There's a mention of one of the boys being called a nasty name, but we never find out what it is, and any racial ugliness that might surface when these boys hit American soil is kept to a minimum.

The movie certainly found the right screenwriter in Tom McCarthy, who previously tackled both cross-cultural relations (The Visitor) and underdog sports prodigies (Win Win) in his middlebrow independent films. The movie surrounds Hamm with good supporting players, including Bill Paxton as a brainy pitching coach, Lake Bell as Bernstein's no-nonsense love interest and Alan Arkin, working his patented curmudgeonly mojo as a veteran scout. But even if they were replaced by nobodies, Hamm has the innate charm to still make this an OK movie. As a guy who plays one of the most bastardly TV protagonists in history, he knows how to find the redeeming qualities in career-driven assholes.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Reality bites."

Film Details

Million Dollar Arm
Rated PG · 124 min. · 2014
Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Tom McCarthy
Producer: Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray
Cast: Jon Hamm, Bill Paxton, Lake Bell, Suraj Sharma, Aasif Mandvi, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash and Alan Arkin

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My wife is super hyped up over this movie. We're going to see it saturday. Having married a Korean american, …

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My wife is super hyped up over this movie. We're going to see it saturday. Having married a Korean american, …

by Timothy Oswald on On the Upside, Crazy Rich Asians Is a Genuine Cultural Milestone. On the Downside, It's ... Not That Good? (Film Review)

I love this film, and we just did a podcast about it! We explore age-related cognitive impairment, alcoholism, rural midwestern …

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Good movie. That showed a career service member can be sold out by BS politicians

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It is a very good film.I really liked it.The film is visual treat to the audience.Suraj Sharma nailed the role …

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Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

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