If starring in schmaltz were a crime, Jon Hamm would be serving five-to-10 in a federal supermax facility for Million Dollar Arm. It’s the latest male weepie cast from the same Disney mold as The Rookie and Miracle, and it’s essentially Jerry Maguire Goes to Mumbai. Inspired by real events, it tells the story of an arrogant sports agent named JB Bernstein (Hamm) who fails to land the superstar client who would save his struggling company, so he hatches a desperate, crazy scheme: He heads to India to find a pair of cricket players (Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma and Slumdog Millionaire’s Madhur Mittal) whom he can turn into the next Major League pitching aces. Sure, the stranger-than-fiction tale has some spark, but director Craig Gillespie manages to swing for every cliché, and the two Indian stars are reduced to exotic fish-out-of-water cartoons as soon as they arrive in America. Lake Bell and Alan Arkin are likable but one-note as, respectively, the quirky love interest who makes JB want to be a better man and the cranky old scout who slowly reveals his own soft, chewy center. Fortunately, Hamm has practice every Sunday night playing a smirking jerk in need of redemption, and he gives the film what little spiky bite it has. I’d be lying if I said the movie didn’t get me a few times. But that’s the thing about schmaltz: Just because you can see it coming doesn’t mean you can resist it. B-
BUY ME SOME PEANUTS AND A FLIGHT TO AMERICA? Leave it to Disney to show us that dreams really do come true. In this case, the American Dream. (Ron Phillips)
Genre: Sports, Biography, Drama; Starring: Alan Arkin, Lake Bell, Jon Hamm, Madhur Mittal, Suraj Sharma; Director: Craig Gillespie; Release Date Wide: 05/16/2014; Runtime (in minutes): 124; MPAA Rating: PG; Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Posted June 3 2014 — 12:00 AM EDT
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