Playing a US sports agent looking for untapped baseball talent in cricket-mad India, Jon Hamm turns on the charm and scores a home run in this thoroughly predictable but immensely enjoyable comedy-drama based on a true story.
Take away Hamm’s charisma and his self-centred character probably wouldn’t even get to first base with viewers (nor would Mad Men’s Don Draper, for that matter), but when his JB Bernstein heads to India in a bid to keep his sinking business afloat we are rooting for him to succeed.
Having caught a glimpse of cricket on TV – ‘It looks like an insane asylum was opened up and the inmates were allowed to invent a game’, is his dismissive verdict – he heads to India, hoping to find a fast bowler with the potential of becoming a fast pitcher.
With the aid of a cranky retired scout (a typically droll Alan Arkin), he sets up a countrywide contest called ‘The Million Dollar Arm’, which attracts thousands of entrants. JB returns to LA with the winners, callow youngsters Rinku (Life of Pi‘s Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal from Slumdog Millionaire), hoping to get them a shot at major league success.
Cue fish-out-of-water comedy aplenty as the Indian country bumpkins encounter such First World delights as electronic elevator doors for the first time. Thoroughly enamoured of First World delights himself, JB has dollar signs in his eyes when he looks at his charges, but with help from his tenant Brenda (the delightfully kooky Lake Bell), he must learn to see them as a kind of surrogate family if his venture is to succeed.
As this Jerry Maguire-like personal-redemption narrative suggests, Million Dollar Arm is not the kind of film to pitch curve balls at the viewer, but even if we do see every plot development coming, it is hard not to warm to this tale of underdogs against the odds.
Certificate PG. Runtime 124 mins. Director Craig Gillespie.
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