Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Genres: Biography, Drama, Sport
In amongst the deluge of big budget special effects movies featuring Superheroes, talking apes, gun toting raccoons and comic book gangsters, comes this little gem from Disney.
John Hamm (TV's Mad Men) plays sports agent JB Bernstein who is trying to make a go of it with his own business with the help of partner Ash (Aasif Mandvi). Unfortunately the agency has hit a bad patch and Bernstein is putting all his faith and efforts into a million dollar signing of an American Football star. Unfortunately, the guy decides to go with a higher bidder and Bernstein is left in the cold.
Without their cash cow to save the company, the partners are in dire straits. Then while drowning their sorrows in JB’s apartment flicking channels between Sky Sports cricket and Susan Boyle singing I ‘Dreamed a Dream’ on Britain’s Got Talent (look out for two little Geordie lads on telly). He comes upon the idea to take a reality show on the road all the way to India in search of a couple of young talented cricket fast bowlers and bring them back to the US to train to be the first Indian baseball players. It sounds crazy but it just might work!
To make sure that they gain as much publicity as possible, they offer One Million Dollars and a new life to the lucky winners. Apart from a film crew they also take along a well-respected ex baseball scout Ray Poitevint, played by Alan Arkin who puts in another underrated top notch performance matching his roles in Little Miss Sunshine, Argo and Grosse Pointe Blank.
John Hamm found popularity as advertising executive Don Draper in TV’s Mad Men which won him a Golden Globe in 2008 as well as the adoration of millions of women throughout the world. Hamm tried the transition from TV to Movies (well it worked for George Clooney) in particular as FBI agent in The Town (2010) and with a small part in Bridesmaids (2011) as the male chauvinist friend with benefits to Kristen Wiig’s character.
I think this is finally the role to get him noticed. He is very likeable in this film and has that leading man presence and you really want his character to succeed.
The character JB lives alone and while he is away in India he asks his lodger Brenda played by Lake Bell It’s Complicated (2009) to house sit and relationship starts to develop which doesn’t follow the usual formula for a change. The two young potential baseball stars are well played by Suraj Sharma Life of Pi (2012) and Madhur Mittal Slumdog Millionaire (2008) who both put in a heart-warming performance as the naïve sportsman who have never left India and find it hard to adjust to the fast moving pace of the US.
Admittedly there are a few corny, even cheesy moments but this is Disney after all. But there are also some very touching moments and should watch out for that cinema dust, it can get right in your eye sometimes. You may think that the story is a little far-fetched but the film is actually based on a true story and if you stay for the closing credits they show the actual real life characters and where they are now.
This film certainly has the feel-good formula and I think Million Dollar Arm could be this year’s sleeper.
A sort of Cool Runnings(1993) for the 21st century.
A Foker On Film recommendation
Four out of Five stars
In cinemas from August 29