Generally speaking, sports movies are the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. You don't go to them looking for something new. They exist to provide that familiar but always fabulous feeling of watching an underdog triumph over adversity. They exist to make us believe in happy endings. They exist to make us feel good.
Based on a true-story, Million Dollar Arm, is about a sports agent J B Bernstein, played by John Hamm, who is deserted by his last fat cat client. So he concocts a crazy scheme to pick out pitchers from the last untapped market - India. He picks up two poor boys and transplants them to LA, where formulaic fish-out-of-water scenarios are played out. But eventually, Bernstein creates the first Indian baseball players to be signed on to a major league. In turn, the boys help Bernstein become a better man.
Director Craig Gillespie tells this story with enough verve and schmaltz to melt the hardest heart. There were moments in this film when I groaned audibly because it was so corny - at one point, the boys set up an Indian-style date for JB, complete with his girl in bindi and lengha. But what keeps Million Dollar arm afloat are the performances - first there's the delectable Jon Hamm who imbues JB with a humanity that makes us forget what a jerk he really is. Then, there's Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma playing the bewildered wannabe baseball players. Suraj's smile lights up the screen. There's Alan Arkin as a grumpy baseball scout and above all, Pitobash Tripathy as the smiling, over-enthusiastic Amit, JB's baseball-obsessed, volunteer assistant. These men and Lake Bell as JB's neighbor Brenda, make the predictable plot palatable. Sadly when it comes to India, Gillespie resorts to the usual poverty, traffic, crowds stereotypes but you can't complain about lack of layers in a film as standard as this.
What matters is that Million Dollar Arm leaves you with a smile on your face and a swing in your step and that’s all it is designed to do. Besides it gave me a real kick to see the iconic Disney logo backed by A. R. Rahman’s music. I’m going with three stars.