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'Million Dollar Arm' is a feel good but calculated baseball yarn

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Million Dollar Arm

Rating:
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Release date: May 16, 2014

Directed by: Craig Gillespie

Written by: Thomas McCarthy

Starring: Jon Hamm, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal, Lake Bell, Bill Paxton, and Alan Arkin

It's pretty hard to screw up baseball movies. Some of the best feel good movies of all-time have revolved around weaving the philosophies of life and baseball together. "Million Dollar Arm" isn't quite ready to take it's place among the baseball movie greats, but it's a pleasant, even if predictable family friendly movie.

Based on the true to life story of real world sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) who sets out on an improbable journey to India in hopes of finding a cricket player he can turn into a Major League Baseball player in order to save his fledgling agency. He spins it into a reality show that promises to turn the winner into a MLB ready pitcher within one year. It's nearly a disaster from the start, before he stumbles onto Rinku Singh (Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal of Slumdog Millionaire), who have odd but effective techniques.

J.B. brings the boys to the states to train with a coach and ultimately try out for MLB scouts. It's a fish out of water tale, with the typical Disney feel good twist to it. There aren't any real surprises, nor does there really need to be. All of the peaks and valleys are plot are predictable. It is after all based on a true story and thankfully there isn't any unnecessary conflict forced in just to give it some drama, but it is what it is, a family friendly baseball movie for all ages.

Jon Hamm doesn't do much more than just be Jon Hamm here, but it's enough. It's not too much of a stretch from some alternate reality version of Don Draper, be has great chemistry with his cast mates, especially Sharma and Mittal. But there is plenty of Hamm to go around as he gets good screen time with everyone else, including Lake Bell, as his neighbor and love interest; Bill Paxton as a USC coach who takes on the highly improbable task of molding these players; and Alan Arkin, playing the same grumpy but lovable character -- this time he's a baseball scout here -- he plays in every movie.

If there is any drawback, it's in the running time that pushes just past two hours. This causes some scenes to feel like they are being dragged out longer than they need to be and it breaks up some nice stretches of fun energy the movie picks up, especially during the scenes that were film in India. It may test the attention span of some, especially since you see how all the pieces will fall together from a mile away.

"Million Dollar Arm" may be a safe and predictable offering from the House of Mouse, but in an age of chaos, sometimes you need a nice little baseball movie you can sit down and watch with the family.

Running time: 124 minutes

Rated: PG for mild language and some suggestive content

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