REVIEW: ‘Million Dollar Arm’ pairs fresh cast with tired plot

REVIEW: ‘Million Dollar Arm’ pairs fresh cast with tired plot

Photo: YouTube

Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport | Run Time: 124 min | Rated: PG
Director: Craig Gillespie | Starring: Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal

By: George Wolf

Disney – the studio who brought you Miracle, The Rookie, and Invincible – needs a family-friendly sports movie for the summer. It must be based on a true story. It requires one or more underdogs, a romantic subplot, and plenty of opportunities for lessons learned. Fish out of water are a plus.

The only surprising thing about Million Dollar Arm is the group of people who convened to answer Disney’s ad for a blockbuster.

Director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) and screenwriter Thomas McCarthy join a talented cast who, collectively, have no business making a predictable crowd pleaser like this. McCarthy, in particular, had a flawless resume up to now, having written and directed the brilliant Station Agent, The Visitor, and Win Win and having written the Pixar masterpiece Up. What’s going on here?

The two inexplicably crafted a film from the true(ish) story of down-on-his-luck sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and his plan to find the next great MLB pitcher in India. And while Million Dollar Arm is equal parts Slumdog Millionaire and Jerry Maguire, and is obvious as all get out, it’s somehow pleasant and appealing.

The filmmaking duo seem to embrace the cliches of their topic, and they manage to expose some ugly realities – sports capitalism, for instance – while they’re at it. They are aided immeasurably by a cast that, too, has far too much talent to be involved with this film.

Jon Hamm embodies the flawed humanity of his character beautifully. While his romantic entanglements are as unmistakable as the hard-won lessons in his near future, his grace and humor provide enough distraction to almost overcome the lack of surprise.

Likewise, neighbor/love interest Lake Bell and potential MLB phenoms Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) charm in roles that could easily have been one-dimensional. Instead, the three develop a sweet chemistry and find a little believable complexity for their characters.

Alan Arkin, on the other hand, offers the same performance we’ve seen from him in his last 20 or more films, while Bollywood star Pitobash settles for broadly drawn comic relief.

Together it’s a mish-mash effort that has no business entertaining as much as it does. Even penned inside a formula, McCarthy can write, Hamm can act, and Gillespie can make it all appear fresh regardless of the fact that we know from the opening credits exactly what we’ll see by the time those credits roll again two hours later.

Verdict 3 Stars

Read more movie reviews at

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: Oct. 5


Take a walk down Hollywood's memory lane.

in Sports

Harvick advances with win; Johnson eliminated

kevin harvick from ap sports via twitter

Kevin Harvick has advanced to the second round of NASCAR's playoffs with a dominating performance at Dover International Speedway.

in Sports

Six are still perfect in the NFL, but Cardinals aren’t one of them

An NFL football with a Breast Cancer Awareness logo during the first half of an NFL football game between the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Check out all the Week 4 scores and stories from around the National Football League.

in Sports

Kershaw gets 300 strikeouts on the season

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws during the first inning of Game 6 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, in St. Louis.

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers recorded his 300th strikeout of the season, becoming the first major league pitcher in 13 years to do so.

in Sports

No. 25 Florida routs No. 3 Ole Miss & AP Top 25 scoreboard


All the scores from across the AP Top 25.

Bellingham Traffic