Million Dollar Arm is a sports movie, sort of, but it has other hooks to attract audiences. First off, I’d guess most sports agents don’t look like J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm). Our St. Louis native son in the lead role provides eye candy for women.
It’s being promoted as a baseball movie, but none of the actors is ever involved in a baseball game. It may be promoted in other parts of the world as a cricket movie, but none of the actors participates in a cricket match.
The film has 2 central stories: (1) The “fish out of water” adventures of the two young Indian men who come to America to pitch baseballs (along with a third Indian assistant) and (2) J.B.’s gradual realization that fulfillment comes not just from making money but from doing the right things.
There’s also a simmering romance between J.B. and Brenda (Lake Bell), the woman who rents his guesthouse.
It’s a “feel good” movie that’s likely to have good word of mouth. It’s rated PG, so you can bring your kids and your grandma.
After his meal ticket jock, a Rams linebacker named Popo (Rey Maualuga), takes his business elsewhere, J.B. and his teammate agent Aash (Aasif Mandvi) come up with the Million Dollar Arm competition. J.B. theorizes that a strong-armed cricket pitcher can be taught to pitch a baseball well enough to get a contract. They travel to India to find candidates for the scheme. Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) are the winners who come to America.
USC baseball coach Tom House (Bill Pullman) is given the job of taking the raw talent these young men possess and turn them into pro prospect pitchers. J.B. opens his house to the wide-eyed Indians but initially gives them only minimal guidance about domestic life in America.
Tryouts are arranged. Big league scouts and media attend. Rinku and Dinesh are washouts. The scheme is a failure. Until… grizzled scout Ray (Alan Arkin) hooks J.B. up with the Pirates, who somehow missed the first tryout. If you’ve ever seen a sports movie, you can guess how they do at their encore audition.
Million Dollar Arm is based on a true story, but comes to the screen with a good amount of Hollywood embellishment. The movie should serve as a solid foundation for Jon Hamm to build a movie career upon, now that Mad Men is coming to an end.