Million Dollar Arm
dir Craig Gillespie
scr Tom McCarthy
prd Joe Roth, Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray
with Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash, Allyn Rachel, Darshan Jariwala, Tzi Ma, Rey Maualuga
release US 16.May.14, UK 29.Aug.14
14/US Disney 2h04
Million Dollar Arm
Starmaker: Bell and Hamm

mandvi arkin paxton
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Million Dollar Arm A smart screenplay goes a long way to helping make this uplifting drama irresistible, especially as it doesn't shy away from some resonant culture-clash issues. Based on a true story, it's an empowering tale of reinvention that works on several levels.

With no clients left, sports manager JB (Hamm) is desperate to find the next big thing. So he hatches an idea to stage a talent competition in India to find baseball potential in cricket players. With the help of his distracted colleague Aash (Mandvi) and grouchy scout Ray (Arkin), he narrows the field to two promising young men (Sharma and Mittal). He takes them back to L.A. with an eager translator(Pitobash), but wonders if renegade coach Tom (Paxton) can teach them the game in time to be picked up by the big leagues.

While threatening to wallow in heartwarming Disney shenanigans, McCarthy's script keeps the film grounded in earthy humour, which gives the relationships a kick of lively unpredictability. Hamm is excellent as the self-absorbed agent whose trip to India broadens his life, even if it takes awhile for the lessons to sink in. His tetchy chemistry with the always terrific Bell, as his sparky tenant, is nicely played. Meanwhile, Mandvi provides hilarious comic relief and Arkin brings his usual cranky-but-savvy old coot.

The plot is ostensibly about American baseball finding a new fanbase in 1 billion Indians, but the film's focus is on how these young men slowly get under JB's skin. Nicely played by all three actors (especially Life of Pi's Sharma), these are hapless but hugely likeable guys, and the way JB comes round to them is never simplified, touching loosely on culture-clash issues as well as America's obsession with wealth.

Gillespie directs with a twinkle in his eye, making everything look slick and easy. Even bustling India looks spectacular, making it difficult to believe JB's complaints about the smell. And the smiley approach makes it clear that all obstacles will be overcome, so the long running-time feels unnecessary. Best of all, the film is refreshingly international in its tone, avoiding the usual Hollywood tendency to make a baseball movie that can't play abroad. Some inside jokes don't translate, but others (a decent jab at Britain's Got Talent) do. And this film will almost certainly be a blockbuster in India.

cert pg themes, mild innuendo 12.Jun.14

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