A lovely Disney feelgood movie for the whole family, this is based on the true story of JB Bernstein, a slick sports agent who finds he has a heart when he convinces two poor Indian kids to leave their homes and come and play baseball in the US.
It’s Slumdog Millionaire with bats and balls as JB (Mad Men’s Jon Hamm) sees his sports agency heading for the toilet, and hits upon an idea to save it. Flicking between a cricket match and the Britain’s Got Talent show one night on his mega-channel TV, he decides that rather than chasing sports stars to join his agency, he’d be better off creating some of his own. And cricket is a bit like baseball… isn’t it? So he comes up with the idea of a talent contest in India, to find two cricket-playing kids who can be trained to become baseball stars in the US. With the help of an eager interpreter (Pitobash) and the more reluctant assistance of a grouchy baseball scout (Arkin, at his sarcastic and curmudgeonly best), JB heads to India to launch his PR-friendly talent contest and find kids who can throw a fastball. It’s tougher than he thought, of course, as most of the contestants can’t even manage a slow ball, but eventually he finds two prospects, Rinku and Dinesh (Sharma, Mittal) to bring to America.
Of course, this is peppered with numerous clichés as the boys come to America and are introduced to such First World delights as elevators and pizzas, but it is done in such a cute, comic way it’s hard to grump about it. Hamm, more ruffled than he ever was as Don Draper, believably goes from slick to sweet (with the help of Lake Bell as his attractive doctor neighbour) and his transformation adds to the overall warm and fuzzy feeling of this terrific little movie.
Is Million Dollar Arm suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...