MILLION DOLLAR ARM
DIRECTED BY Craig Gillespie
STARS Jon Hamm, Lake Bell
With such titles as The Rookie (the baseball flick with Dennis Quaid), Miracle (the hockey flick with Kurt Russell), Invincible (the football flick with Mark Wahlberg) and Secretariat (the horse-racing flick with Diane Lane) under its heavyweight belt, it's clear that Disney loves to homogenize the hell out of true-life sports tales. The latest case in point is Million Dollar Arm, the sort of movie that wins those worthless Heartland Truly Moving Pictures awards that always dot the ads for practically any PG-rated piffle.
That's not to say there isn't always a need for more family-friendly fare, and I could easily recommend this to those clans equipped with two parental units and a pair of small kids not quite ready for the likes of Neighbors — ditto for elderly couples understandably taken aback by the sex and violence prevalent in the cinema of today. But this film, which lives and dies by the formula, will seem more problematic to most other demographics.
Million Dollar Arm takes a look at Rinku Singh (played by Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal), the first two Indians signed to major league baseball contracts. Of course, Hollywood learned nothing from the astronomical success of Slumdog Millionaire, so rather than focus on their inspiring stories, they're shunted aside so that the spotlight can remain primarily on JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm), the American agent whose contact with these kids — and with a preppy medical student (Lake Bell) — helps make him a better man. Million Dollar Arm, you had me at Jerry Maguire.
The cultural assimilation of Singh and Patel in the U.S. of course can't compare to the woes suffered by Bernstein during his brief stay in their country, so we get the usual chatter regarding India's rampant corruption (since they're not as honest as us Americans), blanket poverty (from this film, you wouldn't know that anybody in India enjoyed such luxuries as indoor plumbing) and the ceaseless bouts of diarrhea endured by any foreigners daring to eat the local cuisine (since Papa John's pizza, product-placed in the film, is so much more nutritional — and tastier! — than chicken tikka masala).
The actors (especially Sharma and Mittal) are appealing, and the script by Thomas McCarthy (who usually pens sharper films like The Station Agent and Win Win) sets up the usual dramatic roadblocks that will topple as predictably as bowling pins. Million Dollar Arm is a perfectly pleasant diversion, but it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to spend top dollar on it.