Million Dollar Arm (PG) - 'even if baseball remains a mystery to you, there’s a lot to enjoy here'
Apart from a strong supporting role as an FBI agent in Ben Affleck’s excellent The Town, Jon Hamm hasn’t made the expected transition from the TV success of Mad Men to real film stardom.
It’s difficult to fathom this, given that he has the acting chops in addition to the presence and looks of a proper, old school movie star, but the gentle story of Million Dollar Arm might just be the one to break him to a wider audience.
Based on an unlikely but true story, the film could essentially be boiled down to a pitch that reads “Jerry Maguire meets Slumdog Millionaire”. Hamm plays sports agent JB Bernstein, struggling to get his own agency off the ground when his business partner Ash (Aasif Mandvi) tries to convince him of the delights of the game of cricket.
One night JB finds himself flicking between coverage of India’s premier cricket league and Susan Boyle’s appearance on Britain’s Got Talent when he has a lightbulb moment and concocts a scheme whereby he’ll travel to India to audition youngsters with a view to securing them a professional baseball contract.
Accompanied by a crusty, eccentric coach (Alan Arkin, relishing the role), JB sets out on his travels and eventually decides that he has the two men he needs in the shape of Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma), but can the pair cope with the demands of moving from poverty-stricken villages to Los Angeles and win pro contracts into the bargain?
A likeable and agreeable movie, Million Dollar Arm offers us two sets of fish-out-of-water stories, first with JB’s experiences in India and then when the competition winners reach Stateside. The travelogue aspects of the film stay just the right side of patronising and there’s a nicely-worked romance between Hamm and Lake Bell as a doctor who is also his tenant. Even if baseball remains a mystery to you, there’s a lot to enjoy here.