Million Dollar Arm (2 stars)

Million Dollar Arm

Jon Hamm stars in a bland, predictable baseball drama based on a true-life tale

The many admirers of Jon Hamm's work in the iconic television show Mad Men may feel like they could watch him in anything; Disney’s two-hour plus biopic of a sports agent offers a tough test of that. Hamm's charm works well playing a debonair scoundrel on television but in this bland, family friendly offering, it's a resource that’s quickly drained.

JB Bernstein (Hamm) is struggling to make his mark within the world of Major League Baseball when he comes up with a simple idea: harnessing the fast-bowling skills of cricketers. The marketing potential for the concept is huge, but making the idea work proves a complex operation. Bernstein leaves his stateside creature comforts behind, travelling to India to create 'Million Dollar Arm', a competition offering a lucrative contract as a reward for the best throwing arm.

That Bernstein's story has become a feature film gives away the ending. Craig Gillespie's anonymously directed dramedy is clearly a triumph-of-the-underdogs story, from the producers of the similarly themed Invincible and Miracle. Despite the authenticity of the source material, genuine inspiration is rare and fleeting. Million Dollar Arm focuses on the bonding between Bernstein and his two Indian apprentices (played by Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal), clearing the way for a series of obvious culture clashes; a predictable trajectory which makes the film considerably duller than any of screenwriter Thomas McCarthy’s previous entries (Up, Win Win, The Station Agent).

Anyone who saw Lake Bell's fresh and funny performance in her directorial debut In a World... will be disappointed by her by-the-numbers contribution here as Bernstein’s (eventual) partner Brenda: like the colourful Indian backdrop, she takes a back-seat to a parade of routine sports movie heroics. Unless you're heavily invested in cricket, baseball or ogling Jon Hamm, stay away; there's not much that's cinematic about the workmanlike Million Dollar Arm.

General release from Fri 29 Aug.

'Million Dollar Arm' Official Trailer

Million Dollar Arm

  • 2 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 2h 4min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Craig Gillespie
  • Cast: Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin
  • UK release: 29 August 2014

JB Bernstein (Hamm) is a struggling sports agent in Major League Baseball who has the idea of harnessing the fast-bowling skills of cricketers. Based on a true story, this is an uninspired triumph-of-the-underdogs dramedy with little to offer anyone who isn't besotted with baseball, cricket or the leading man.