Mad Men's Jon Hamm stars in the new baseball-themed dramedy Million Dollar Arm. Is this an inspiring underdog story or a disappointment? Jeffrey Harris checks in with his full review.
Directed By: Craig Gillespie Written By: Thomas McCarthy Runtime: 124 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG
JB - Jon Hamm Aash - Aasif Mandvi Tom House - Bill Paxton Ray - Alan Arkin Brenda - Lake Bell Rinku - Suraj Sharma Dinesh - Madhur Mittal Chang - Tzi Ma Theresa - Allyn Rachel
Jon Hamm, after breaking out with the hit TV series Mad Men, now gets one of his first starring roles in a feature film as he adjusts to his post-Mad Men career. The show will be leaving after its seventh and final season. Million Dollar Arm is by no means a groundbreaking, exceptional film to try and usher in a potential film career for Hamm, but it is a solid, decent viewing experience nonetheless. Million Dollar Arm can best be described as a by-the-numbers sports dramedy. However, as a fairly by-the-numbers story, it asserts itself very well and manages to be a watchable film.
Hamm stars as a struggling, former hotshot sports agent named JB. He and his partner Aash (Mandvi) have decided to strike out on their own and form their own sports agency. Unfortunately, their plan is failing, and they are running out of funds just to keep the lights on in the office. They are unable to compete with the major agencies, and all the major international markets have already been tapped, except India. JB comes up with a last-ditch, Hail Mary plan to save their business. He decides to take a reality show competition to India in order to find the first Major League Baseball player from the region in order to exploit a fairly untapped marketplace. The problem? No one in India plays baseball.
JB is able to recruit the reluctant college baseball coach Tom House (Paxton) to sign up to instruct the contestant winners once they get brought over to the states. Aash and JB successfully convince wealthy corporate investor Chang (Ma) to finance the project, and JB jets off to India to get the ball rolling on the competition. At first, JB has a rough start a due to the culture shock and the way of doing business in the country. Eventually, by the skin of their teeth, the show goes off. Two local athletes who exhibit some potential in their power pitches, Rinku (Sharma) and Dinesh (Mittal), become the winner and runner-up. JB and Aash now have to bring them to the states in order to get them into a MLB scouting session with the hopes of getting drafted. Obviously, since neither Rinku and Dinesh have no baseball experience, it is an uphill battle. House does what he can, but the timetable for the scouting session is ludicrous. Of course, JB is also distracted by his attempt to land a major client to try and save his business that way, while also flirting with the attractive doctor who rents his guest house, Brenda (Bell).
Million Dollar Arm is fairly predictable and nothing really surprising happens. However, it shines through strong performances by Hamm, Paxton, Mandvi, Sharma, and Mittal. Alan Arkin has a great supporting role in the film as the lethargic, but seasoned, baseball scout, Ray. It’s a fun performance by Arkin as a senior scout who has done it all, seen it all, and who can detect a fastball pitch while he’s half asleep. Paxton seems to be showing up a lot more now in these types of supporting roles. The role of the supportive but realistic coach, Tom House, is a great role for him.
Hamm displays great presence as JB. He and Mandvi, a longtime character actor who has been in tons of movies, play off each other well. This is really a great sort of breakout role of sorts for Mandvi, who has had lots of smaller roles in bigger films like Spider-Man 2, but finally gets to play a major role here as Aash. Hamm knows how to be incredibly likable and also brings an old school vibe to the part.
The film is based on a true story and real-life figures. However, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that writer Thomas McCarthy did a lot to embellish the true events to make them more dramatic. Again, the film does play as a typical underdog sports hero story. Rinku, Dinesh, and JB are the collective underdogs. Rinku and Dinesh are trying to make something of themselves and make their families proud. JB is trying to stick it to the unfeeling, evil major sports agents and succeed with his own projects, resembling Jerry Maguire. Not all of it is completely believable, but Craig Gillespie through his direction and a good cast, manages to put together a decent, enjoyable little sports flick here.
The 411: Million Dollar Arm takes a rather average, paint-by-numbers type scenario and really pulls it off quite well. The movie is well made and has strong performances. It's paced well, and comes together as a decent, watchable experience. The story is really predictable, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Hamm is a compelling performer, and the rest of the cast makes the movie even better.