Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin, Lake Bell, Bill Paxton, Bar Paly
Sports agent JB (Hamm) is washed up. Unable to compete with the financial packages offered by his rivals, he can't attract the top stars. One evening, while flicking channels between Britain's Got Talent and a cricket match, he comes up with a brainwave. Figuring cricket as similar enough to baseball, he heads to India, where he oversees a nationwide contest to pluck two young men from obscurity and turn them into Major League Baseball stars.
As someone with no real interest in either sport, I've often wondered why cricket players, who earn a relative pittance, don't defect to the lucrative rival sport of baseball. Million Dollar Arm provides something of an answer through Bill Paxton's sports psychologist, who explains that the two disciplines require altogether different throwing motions.
I could never summon the patience to sit through a baseball game but there's something romantic about the sport that makes it translate to cinema in a way other sports fail to. Perhaps it's the idea that, unlike most other sports, you don't need to be in peak physical condition, and so stars can be plucked from obscurity if their arm compensates for their beer gut. As you'd expect from a Disney movie (this is essentially Mickey Mouse's Moneyball) the romantic aspect of the sport is glorified, and the movies most effective scenes are those that feature balls in flight.
It's the subplots circling the main storyline that fail to hit a home run. A "will they, won't they?" thread between Hamm and Bell never really goes anywhere, and the idea of the career obsessed Hamm discovering a surrogate family through housing the wannabe baseball stars in his plush condo is similarly under developed.
For a movie from the writer of The Station Agent and the director of Lars and the Real Girl, this is as safe and sugary as they come, but the charisma of Hamm, Bell and Arkin, combined with that indefinable romance of the featured sport, make it watchable for baseball novices.
By Eric Hillis