"We might have to tweak that a little."
It had been a while since Disney had produced a sports movie but if you sat for the opening 10 minutes of Million Dollar Arm you could tell that the formula hasn't changed much for the genre over time. Everything about this film is predictable as it follows pretty much every cliché possible. Director, Craig Gillespie doesn't bother to change the successful formula here so you see pretty much everything coming, but somehow Million Dollar Arm is still an enjoyable film that manages to pull at your heartstrings thanks to a solid cast. Gillespie's Lars and the Real Girl is perhaps still my favorite film of his and I wish he would have played a bit with the genre conventions like he did with the horror genre in Fright Night. I expected a lot more from the screenplay considering Thomas McCarthy's past works were superb (I am a huge fan of his previous screenplays for Win Win and The Visitor). Perhaps he didn't have the same creative liberties considering this was a Disney production and they are known for controlling various aspects of the process. The film was based on true events so the audience was already expecting an inspirational tale and it accomplishes it. There are several funny scenes that elevate the film and the scenes in Mumbai stand out as the movie shows the difference between both cultures. The portrayal of Indians is stereotypical but the humor works nonetheless and it's the highlight of the film. So despite being painfully predictable at times and a bit overlong, the scenes in India and the comedic performances were enough to turn this into an enjoyable experience. I may be a bit biased considering I love sports although I'm not a huge baseball fan, but it is nowhere near being this year's Moneyball. Disney's Remember the Titans continues to be their best sports drama.
A lot of the success of the film relies on how much you like Jon Hamm, and I thought he gave a solid performance considering his character isn't entirely likable. He is very flawed as this sports agent who seems to be interested in looking out for his agency. Hamm pulls it off and I ended up routing for him. Hamm may not be the most engaging presence of the film, but he leaves that to the supporting cast who all give delightful performances. The Indians, Suraj Sharma (Pi from Life of Pi) and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire), play the future baseball prospects who are recruited from the reality TV show that Hamm's character created in India. They are the people who we are routing for as an audience and they achieve the purpose. They bring the emotional aspect of the film. For the comedy, Gillespie recruited Alan Arkin and Bill Paxton who are always a sure bet. Without being exceptional they still managed to be funny. The funniest scenes however come from newcomer, Pitobash Tripathy, who was a fresh addition to an otherwise predictable film. Lake Bell is the only female character present in the film and she delivers a solid performance as well. Her chemistry with Jon Hamm also lifted this film from being a mediocre movie.