Sports films nowadays must feel like they have to be based on a true story in order to exist. Million Dollar Arm follows the trend by centering on real life agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm), a man struggling with his business partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) to keep their agency afloat due to their inability to acquire new clients. They hatch a crazy plan to sell to an investor in hopes that they can create a sensation: they’ll travel to India to look at cricket players and create a contest to find out who could play in the major leagues. They discover two young talents, Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), and bring them to the United States in hopes that they sign with a major league team. They can bring a billion new fans to the sport and give young Indians hope that they can achieve the American Dream. The film consistently remains hokey and preachy but never fails in its performances; Hamm, Sharma, and Mittal are all terrific, with Lake Bell proving that she should be a supporting (or lead) player in any film. The use of culture shock feels out of place when it’s sparingly used, and the film thrives on the balance of sports impacting actual lives. It’s a mixed bag, but it’s an engaging, heartfelt watch that cares about characters.
Grade: ★★★ (out of 5)