Since I was a child, I’ve been going to Mexico to visit extended family. I distinctly recall the culture shock I experienced and how even going grocery shopping was like a new adventure. My little sister was with me, but refused to leave the comfort of her room and her Barbie dolls to experience her surroundings. Million Dollar Arm in this case, would be my sister, not embracing this cultural opportunity to learn something new, but instead focusing on the wrong thing, making her protagonist her Barbie. Jon Hamm would be the Barbie of this story, in more ways than you would think.
Jon Hamm plays a person called JB, who is too uncannily reminiscent of his role in Mad Men, that he’s one drinking problem away from full on Don Draper. JB is a sports agent at a small business he started with his friend and business partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi). Not able to stay afloat financially, they must try on last ditch effort to sign some one from India since it’s currently an untapped market.
With a benefactor, he holds a Million Dollar Arm pitching competition meant only for cricket players, but instead gets two of the most promising newbies India has to offer, Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal). Now he has less than a year for Coach Tom (Bill Paxton) to make Major League Baseball players out of them. JB’s future is on the line so he has little time for anything, even his tenant/potential love interest Brenda (Lake Bell). With your eyes only on the goal, it’s easy to lose sight on the things right in front of you.
The same can be said about Million Dollar Arm. It focuses on the wrong story the entire time. Sure, I’ll take any excuse to watch Jon Hamm play his stern, sweet talking role from Mad Men any day, but they missed a huge opportunity to showcase the beautiful India culture. Instead, they viewed India from an over-privileged, first world perspective and glazed over the cultural cadence.
Even a rhythmic score from Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) is not enough to infuse this uninspired inspirational story. Despite what the film will lead you to believe, the heroes of the film should have been Rinku and Dinesh, and the focus should have been placed on the cultural differences and how adjusting to life in the spotlight affected them, not just showing their cultural missteps only when it ends at a punchline. You’re also not surprised when Alan Arkin is thrown in the mix with his typecast, cantankerous old man schtick
Despite its many short comings, Million Dollar Arm isn’t bad. It is effortlessly good, which is a bad thing in its own respect. Jon Hamm naturally oozes charm and charisma (especially when in a sharp suit), so you’re rooting for him to succeed. The story is straight forward and formulaic, so it can’t miss its mark. It throws him unremarkable pitches that he easily swings and hits. He begins to round the bases at a leisurely pace until his hit is calmly caught by the opposing team. It seems he’s struck out.
RATING: ★★★★★(5/10 stars)
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