“Mad Men” star Jon Hamm gets to lighten up a bit in “Million Dollar Arm,” a warm and friendly underdog sports tale based on a true story.
Hamm plays J.B. Bernstein, a sports agent who’s desperate to score a big client. He and his partner, Aash (“The Daily Show’s” Aasif Mandvi), hit upon a big idea: Go to the untapped market of India and mount a reality-show contest to convert cricket players into baseball pitchers — with the promise of a major-league tryout as the grand prize. Ultimately he finds two prospects, Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (“Life of Pi” star Suraj Sharma), whom J.B. immerses in American culture.
The script, by actor/filmmaker Tom McCarthy (“Win Win,” “The Visitor”), is filled with Disney touches — from crotchety baseball veterans (Alan Arkin and Bill Paxton) to a convenient love interest for J.B. (played by Lake Bell) — but still has enough edge for director Craig Gillespie (“Lars and the Real Girl”) to capture the grit of Indian life and American baseball.
Hamm neatly captures J.B.’s dilemma, between chasing the deal and doing right by his young players, and seems to enjoy having the Don Draper existential angst lifted from his shoulders.
‘Million Dollar Arm’
Opens today at theaters everywhere; rated PG for mild language and some suggestive content; 124 minutes.