Yes, citizens from other countries: Play the sport where just about everybody is injecting needles into their buttocks, just to “get ahead”.
J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a down-on-his-luck sports agent that’s trying to make it big, with all of the right clients, and all of the fine amounts of cash just stream-lining into his fancy office. However, it just isn’t. Instead, he’s finding himself more and more up against the walls and without a clue as to what to do next. However, one night, he gets the brilliant idea: Go to India, and a hold a contest called “the Million Dollar Arm”. From there, Bernstein and fellow other scouts would be able to find the next hot talent from India, a place that has yet to even be looked at by MLB prospects, while also gaining enough notoriety to keep Bernstein’s agency afloat and actually still heard of. Eventually, Bernstein has the competition come down to two hopeful prospects: Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma). Though Patel and Singh remain hopeful for the future, they still have no clue how to play baseball and have never left their native-land before until now. So yeah, it’s definitely a bit of culture-shock for these guys, but Bernstein thinks he’s got all of the right resources to make sure that these two do just fine in the try-outs. Because hell, even if they don’t, at least Bernstein will have enough money and fame to his name, right? Well, yeah, sure, but there’s a price you have to pay for that; a price Bernstein is about to face, head on.
It’s obvious what this movie is trying to be: Think Jerry Maguire, but with a twist of Slumdog Millionaire. And rather than their being any famous lines like, “Show me the monay!”, or, “You….complete me”, we just have a bunch of scenes where Jon Hamm acts surprised that something didn’t go his way, throws his head in his hand, and just lets the world know that even someone as handsome as him, can look gritty. You want to know how?!? By forgetting to shave for what seems to be a little bit over a week!
Oh, the range.
But no, in all seriousness, folks, the problem with this movie isn’t Jon Hamm – in fact, he may have been the best aspect that kept me watching – nope, it was that the film itself is so obvious and predictable, that the fact that it’s also cloying and in dire need of love and sympathy, just really pushed me over the edge. I got what this movie was trying to do: It’s trying to give us a inspired tale of fulfilling your dreams, that most of us probably have never heard of before. I sure as hell didn’t, and I think that’s what this movie wanted to tap into the most, the surprise-element that this actually happened.
The problem with the movie is that every beat it goes for and hits, can be seen from a mile away. Don’t tell me that the neighbor J.B. lives next to, who we get a brief snippet of time with in the beginning, shows up every now and again throughout the movie! Or, better yet, don’t tell me that the old, grumpy, wise-cracking character played by, you guessed it, Alan Arkin who, at first, doesn’t seem like he gives a shit at all about these kids or the sport of baseball in general, actually seems to care a lot and help J.B. out when the time comes that he needs it the most! And please, whatever you do, don’t try and tell me that J.B.’s boss also happens to be a bit of a money-grubbing, attention-loving a-hole that doesn’t care about these kids, the sport of baseball, and whether or not he and J.B. stay as business-associates!
So yeah, as you can tell, all of the plot-developments that happen here, in front of our eyes and ears, can be predicted from a mile away. However, where that usually works for some movies, because the movie itself is so pleasing and enjoyable to begin with that it predictability itself almost doesn’t matter, it doesn’t here. Mainly because it seems like the movie just us wants to love everything about it – J.B., his neighbor, the sport of baseball, India, keeping tradition, baseball scouts, smart sports-trainers, these two possible-prospects – everything about it just screams, “Love me! Love me!”. And while I was more than willing to going into this movie, during it, I just wanted them to stop pestering me and get on with the story itself.
Which, for a nearly two-hour movie, is a bit much, especially when everything can be seen coming from a mile away.
However, with most bad movies, there’s usually the cast to make things a bit better, but even most of the familiar-faces here can’t do much to help make matters a bit better. As I stated before, Hamm is fine in this role as J.B. Bernstein, although I did find it a bit hard to see him to go from “I just want my money, like NOW”, to, “You know what? This baseball stuff is silly. Let’s just love one another, man!”. I didn’t really see the transition work as well as the movie wanted me to think it did, ad I found it even more annoying that they continued to force down our throat the supposed “romance” Hamm’s character has with Lake Bell’s.
Bell plays her usual ditsy, witty and charming-self that nobody ever seems to get tired of, but here, she seems like a plot-contrivance to keep the plot moving, give us a reason to make sense of why J.B. would go soft all of a sudden, and to sympathize with these two guys from India a whole lot more. Bell tries and tries again, but the chemistry between her and Hamm just never seemed believable to me. Also, not to mention the fact that the whole angle in which Bell’s character constantly bothers J.B. through Skype, felt very tacked-on and a bit creepy. Even if the girl is Lake Bell, I wouldn’t want some gal constantly bothering me while I’m trying to do work, a couple of countries over, just to talk about the washing-machine. Like come on, woman! Give a man some privacy!
Where the cast does get a bit better is with Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal, the two actors who play these professional baseball-hopefuls from India. Both definitely seem like bright-eyed, innocent, young fellas that don’t really know what they are getting themselves into, but go through it anyway because it’s in their lap and they think, “Eh. Might as well.” Though the movie tries to cram their squeaky-clean cleanliness down our throats, these two definitely make it worth while because they just seemed that way. It didn’t matter if they smoked crack, banged hookers, or murder people when the camera’s weren’t rolling; they seemed like nice, young and pleasant-enough fellas that I wanted to see this story about them, and whether the end-result would be good or bad for them. Didn’t care about the movie their story was in, but I cared about them, and that was almost enough to keep me going. Almost.
Consensus: You can’t deny that Million Dollar Arm‘s heart is in the right place, but it wants us to know that in just about every scene, that it gets really annoying, real quick, and takes away from what could have been a really endearing, inspirational tale that we haven’t really seen before. Except for the fact that we have.
3 / 10 = Crapola!!