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“Million Dollar Arm” – (SO-SO POSITIVE)

May 22, 2014

Screen shot 2014-05-22 at 6.42.07 PMThank goodness for Jon Hamm, because anyone else in this role would’ve made it quite a typical bore. Ok, to the films credit, “Million Dollar Arm” does manage to evade certain sports drama tropes from being called a complete 2+-hour cliché. Although, the movie does, for lack of a better word, find its way to become a little too schmaltzy.

In a last effort to save his career as a sports agent, JB Bernstein (Hamm) concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next great pitcher…in India! After watching a game of cricket on TV, JB figures that by converting a cricket bowler into a baseball pitcher may be the drive he’s been looking for.

He travels to India to produce a reality show competition called “Million Dollar Arm.” with the Indian government, what he discovers are two incredible gifted young men, Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma), two 18 year old boys who have no idea about playing baseball, yet have a knack for throwing a fastball. As the boys learn the finer points of baseball, JB, with the help of his charming friend/tenant Brenda (Lake Bell), find the value in teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family, and not just out on the field.

The ho-hums of Disney sport dramas always have a high and low point, some will stay the test of time (“Remember the Titans”), others will garner cult status among stoners (“Cool Running’s”), and others will just with & die away (“The Game Plan”). “Million Dollar Arm”, unlike most of those films isn’t really a sports movie per-say, more or less we’re focused on the business end of the athletic community rather than the athletics themselves. Though to be fair, the film does manage to counter balance the two.

Screenwriter, Tom McCarthy, follows the sports-biz drama formula to film like “Moneyball”, personally the business side of major league teams has always caught my eye, perhaps my liking to this years “Draft Day” also favored quite well. McCarthy’s focus however is the affects of the highs and lows of the business, and judging by Jon Hamm’s JB, you’d have to be insane to even think about committing to such a career, but then again, an agent for ANYTHING major sounds too crazy of an idea to follow as a career path.

Screen shot 2014-05-22 at 6.43.07 PMHowever, the problem the movie faces, besides it’s sometimes tedious pacing, is the little warm gooey moments filtered in. The annoying character of (played by Pitobash) was clearly brought in to garner cheap laughs, especially for the kids who would be escorted with their parents to this movie, rather than seeing “Godzilla”. He makes “Cool Running’s” Sanka look like a breeze by comparison, my eyes were in pain by the constant rolling. Lets not forget that this is a Disney drama, and corny love is something that is very much inevitable. While at times the connection between JB & Brenda can be somewhat charming, the lingering will they, won’t they, and becomes tiresome all too fast. There’s a moment where Brenda shows off her extremely cut new beau to JB, and it’s one of those awkward moments, not just for the characters, but for the audience members as well. Why do we need to experience such a random moment? Clearly the movie will give us their off screen break up reveal, which then has saying, “Alright, so there’s still a chance for our guy to get some of that booty!”

The saving grace of the film does go to Jon Hamm, he’s likable, even when he’s not supposed to be, he’s charming, even when he’s an ass, and when he jumps in at the last minute to save face, you really feel good about yourself at that moment. The cinematography of all the India scenes is a nice touch, and A.R. Rahman’s score is without question a boost of confidence this movie certainly needed. It’s not quite a mix bag, but it’s nothing along the lines of “Miracle” or “Remember the Titans”.

GRADE: B-

Aaron Shore, is a contributing blogger for the film sites of Hudak on Hollywood & Insta Reviews.

You can follow Aaron on Twitter @DoubleAAProd

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