Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

May 13, 2014

CALLERI: New movie attempts to bridge cultures on the playing field

Niagara Gazette — “Million Dollar Arm” is loosely based on the true story of an arrogant sports agent (seriously, is there any other kind), who needs a career boost of his own. He’s relentlessly smug, deeply dismissive of the attractive woman who lives next door to him, and is facing bankruptcy. So what does he do? He comes up with a gimmick he thinks will be his salvation.

An idea for a movie should be substantial, and even if some of what occurs in the baseball-oriented “Million Dollar Arm” did happen, the gimmick involved doesn’t hit a home run. In fact, it settles for being a single.

The agent, known as JB and played by Jon Hamm, thinks he’s found the solution to his problems among cricket players in India, so he goes there hoping to find someone who can throw a baseball – of course, none of the cricket players has ever held one. JB wants to stage a competition television show, offering $100,000 to the winner and the chance to go to the United States and play major league baseball.

The film rolls along in predictable fashion. There is nothing fresh or interesting about watching this American in India. For JB, the food is smelly, the people are smelly, and the streets are smelly. Every condescendingly repugnant stereotype about India you can imagine is hurled at the audience.

This is less a fish-out-of-water movie than it is a moderately cloddish dolt barnstorming his way through a deeply-rooted culture movie.

Once in India, JB finds his baseball prospects, two young men who return with him to the U.S. They are amazed and astonished by what they encounter because, well you know, in the film, India is such a backwards place, where nothing works, and there are no links to the outside world. The good-natured hopefuls are caricaturized as innocents in awe of every single thing America has to offer.

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