The inspirational, based-on-a-true-story format is well trod by Disney, but its latest effort with Craig Gillespie’s “Million Dollar Arm” is different.
It manages to employ the familiar cliches and predictable cheesiness of any family-friendly movie while simultaneously cutting through the tropes with disarming wit and humanity. Real-life sports agent J. B. Bernstein is played with surly panache by Jon Hamm, who abandons the success he’s found at a big time agency to start his own. He puts on his best Don Draper pitch voice in order to sign a hotshot NFL linebacker, but fails to land the big fish after “Popo” demands a $1 million signing bonus.
At the brink of ruin, Bernstein devises a preposterous scheme to transform an Indian cricket bowler into a major-league pitcher — an idea as risky as it could be potentially rewarding. The population of India would open American baseball to a billion new fans. He styles the search as a reality show, and his calm, collected financial backer Chang agrees to the deal but tethers Bernstein on a tight time line for a return.
Bernstein jets off to India in search of the million-dollar arm, and returns with a comic relief sidekick Amit (Pitobash), and the “arms”: Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal).
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‘MILLION DOLLAR ARM’
Starring: Jon Hamm, Bill Paxton, Lake Bell, Suraj Sharma and Aasif Mandvi. (Mild language and suggestive content)