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Susan Granger's review of 'Million Dollar Arm'

Published 4:12 pm, Friday, May 23, 2014
  • Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews "Million Dollar Arm." Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed / New Canaan News Contributed
    Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews "Million Dollar Arm." Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed

 

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Over the years, if you've enjoyed Disney underdog sports diversions like "The Mighty Ducks," "The Big Green" and "Cool Runnings," this heartwarming story -- based on actual events -- is for you.

When fast-talking Los Angeles sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm from "Mad Men") loses a major football client (Rey Maualuga), he and his fledgling partner, Aash Vasudevan (Assif Mandvi), are in desperate straits. One night, as he flips channels between a cricket game and Susan Boyle's "Britain's Got Talent" audition, Bernstein comes up with a crazy idea to travel to India and hold a talent contest to find cricket players who can throw a baseball.

Depending on a retired, narcoleptic baseball scout, cranky Ray Pointevint (Alan Arkin), Bernstein goes on a chaotic, three-month search, departing from Mumbai and encompassing picturesque Jaipur, Agra, Calcutta, Bangalore and New Dehli, along with an enthusiastic Hindi interpreter Amit (Bollywood star Pitobash). Backed by a wealthy investor Mr. Chang (Tzi Ma), he brings back two pitching prospects: Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma from "Life of Pi") and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittel from "Slumdog Millionaire").

Baffled by American technology and ensnared in culture shock, the lonely, disoriented boys barely speak English

and wind up living with Bernstein, where they're befriend-

ed by the compassionate medical student, Brenda Fenwick (Lake Bell), who rents his guest bungalow, as they train with visionary USC pitching coach Tom House (Bill Paxton) and prepare for their Major League tryouts.

Scripted by Tom McCarthy ("Meet the Parents") and directed by Craig Gillespie ("Lars and the Real Girl"), it could have been "Jerry Maguire Goes to India," if not for the innate emotional honesty, poignancy and ingratiating charm of Jon Hamm and the vulnerable, young Indian actors, along with a delightful score by Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman. While rambling, it's sincere, as opposed to schmaltzy.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Million Dollar Arm" slides in with an uplifting 7, this week's feel-good family film.