Don’t switch off after you read the next sentence, OK? Million Dollar Arm is a movie about baseball. NO, STEP AWAY FROM THE BACK BUTTON! It’s good! And you needn’t be American to watch it. Honest! Now keep reading.
Based on a true story, it follows the fortune of sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm). Down on his luck and devoid of decent clients, his business is about to go belly up unless he comes up with A Bright Idea, fast. Fortunately he does, from the unlikely combined inspirations of Susan Boyle and Indian cricketers. JB surmises that if cricketers can bowl a cricket ball fast, they can pitch a baseball fast. And that no-one in India watches baseball. Therefore find an Indian cricketer, turn him into a baseball pitcher and x million Indians will start watching baseball. Think of the marketing opportunities!
JB sets about creating ‘Million Dollar Arm’, an X Factor-style competition to find young Indian cricketers with raw pitching potential. Roping in retired, curmudgeonly talent spotter Ray (Alan Arkin), he packs up and heads for Mumbai where, after auditioning seemingly every cricketing juvenile in the land, they pick their naive, impressionable winners and ship them back to the good ol’ US of A for intensive coaching.
This is, if you’ll excuse the old sporting adage, a game of two halves. Part one sees the capitalist, uptight American dealing with the colourful, emotional chaos of India. Part two sees the innocent and unworldly young Indian cricketers dealing with the urban, impersonal culture of the US. But will the two, fish-out-of-water sides come together and learn from each other? There’s the Million Dollar question.
On paper this is clichéd and pulls every emotional string in the book. It even throws in a handy love interest sub-plot for JB. But we enjoyed it. Yes, it shamelessly plunders the Slumdog Millionaire feelgood factor, but the scenes in India have charm and humour. Most importantly, the cast are clearly having such a good time you can’t help but share it. Don’t analyse, just sit back and let it wash over you.
UK release 29 August.