‘Million Dollar Arm’: Not a home run, but still a respectable game
A three-star movie review of “Million Dollar Arm,” a likable showing with something for everyone, including a leading-man turn for Jon Hamm.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Million Dollar Arm,’ with Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton. Directed by Craig Gillespie, from a screenplay by Thomas McCarthy. 124 minutes. Rated PG for mild language and some suggestive content. Several theaters.
“Million Dollar Arm” is one of those something-for-everyone movies, fitting into numerous categories. Inspirational based-on-fact sports story? Check. Charming fish-out-of-water tale of newcomers to America finding their way? Check. Saga of money-hungry guy who finds his soul and learns to love? Yep. Movie in which Jon Hamm sports cute stubble and proves he isn’t just Don Draper on “Mad Men”? Gotcha. Family-friendly summer movie in which baseballs are thrown instead of swear words? You got it.
All of this results in a movie you think you’ve seen before, every step of the way. But despite its overstuffed baggage and slightly bloated running time, “Million Dollar Arm” is good fun, particularly with popcorn. Hamm plays J.B. Bernstein, a Los Angeles sports agent who’s broke and desperate for a big deal. A colleague’s casual comment plus a channel-surfing evening involving a cricket match and Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed a Dream” (got it?) gives him an inspiration: He’ll head to India for a massive talent search among cricket players, with the goal of ultimately signing the first Indian major-league-baseball player — and, not incidentally, gain a vast continent of new audience members for the sport.
Things, of course, don’t go quite as J.B. planned; soon he’s got three young Indian men living at his house, asking questions about J.B.’s relationship with his charming tenant (Lake Bell) — and, despite impressive arms, not playing baseball very well. The script, by Thomas McCarthy (writer/director of a better sports movie, “Win Win”), cheerfully glosses over the young players’ adjustment to the U.S., and J.B.’s transformation (with Bell’s character’s help) from cranky agent to nice guy.
But Hamm’s raspy-voiced, square-jawed charm is used to good effect. This guy was born to be a leading man; why did it take so long? And Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal and Pitobash (as two players and a translator/wannabe-coach), along with Bell and Aasif Mandvi as J.B.’s assistant, are so likable that resistance is futile. Baseballs will soar, shoulders will be clasped in sportsly camaraderie, dreams will be shared, Hamm’s profile will glitter in the sun and all will be well with the world. “Million Dollar Arm” isn’t quite a home run, but it runs the bases just fine.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org