“Million Dollar Arm” Nice Showcase for Hamm

million-dollar-arm-movie-posterDirector Craig Gillespie’s true sports story Million Dollar Arm (B-), isn’t likely to please viewers eager to see the thrills of athleticism on the screen (heck, even Stallone’s arm wrestling movie racks up more credibility on that scoreboard); but after a lethargic start, this formulaic film finds its footing as a surrogate family drama and a bit of a redemption tale about a fallen sports agent getting a second chance. Jon Hamm’s search for new baseball pitching talent from cricket players in India and the subsequent fish-out-of-water training and scouting in California and Arizona hold only modest suspense or intrigue but are rendered enjoyable by the considerable charms of Madhur Mattal and Suraj Sharma. Lake Bell is also a pleasant presence as the tenant in Hamm’s carriage house who may just hold the key to his steely heart. Hamm and ensemble are batting average until some fairly nice travelogue moments abroad and a late-reel rally of sentimental delights. There are no baseball games in the movie and no credible training montages – just lots of fast throws for velocity points. This hardly adds up to riveting cinema. Mostly it’s a lesser mash-up masala of Jerry Maguire, Moneyball and Mr. Baseball. Although only sporadically successful, the film has just enough contemporary edge and international flair to push the Disney brand forward just a bit while still providing a safe bet for family viewing.