Million Dollar Arm - Cinema Review

'never has a 'hero' in a story been quite such a money-minded, capitalist, corporate jack ass'

Disney's live-action feelgood factory churns out another emotionally-heightened underdog success story in the shape of Million Dollar Arm, a film that feels like a deliberate cross between their own sepia-loving love-in Remember The Titans and Slumdog Millionaire.

Jon Hamm, as agent JB, struts off to India with casually racist prejudgements in tow, searching for some cricket stars to hoik off to the US and exploit in order to bring in a whole new audience for Major League Baseball. Meanwhile, back home, JB's business is falling into tatters around partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) and the tenant in his backyard bungalow (Lake Bell) keeps fluttering her eyelashes suggestively.

Working out quite whether the racism is ingrained somewhere in Craig Gillespie's film or whether it is merely decent characterisation of the oafish JB is a full time task. On one hand it seems doubtful that a film scripted by Tom McCarthy, a serious and erstwhile talent, would have such a heavy-handed treatment of its heroes' outlook. Equally though, McCarthy seems to keep including lines that funnel you into doubting his understanding of cultural interactions. 'We love honking and bypassing the system', says Vivek (Darshan Jariwala) at one point, McCarthy writing into an Indian mouth the film's stereotyped view of how Indian's behave.

On equally rocky but infinitely less offensive ground is Gillespies' insertion of JB's romance with Brenda (Bell), which feels about as natural a fit with the rest of this story as a heavy metal performance at a funeral. There's a hint late on that perhaps Brenda - a medic - is there to tease out the co-dependent, but at times warring, philosophies between the sport and those who treat its stars (for baseball fans: think the current Tommy John debate), although that might be giving the film a little too much credit.

The main problem though is Hamm, who feels vaguely out of place whenever he isn't Don Draper and here is given a constantly uphill task in making JB likeable. 'What do a million new fans need? A million new hats!', is his successful pitch to Chang (Tzi Ma) in order to allow him to complete his project. Never has a 'hero' in a story been quite such a money-minded, capitalist, corporate jack ass, but then when you consider the studio behind this, there is actually little wonder. For those interested, it's worth reading into the Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) story post this film and making a judgement call on just who did see the most of the title's vaunted 'million dollars'.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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