Just like apple pie, McDonald’s, bald eagles and Beyoncé, baseball is the American way. Once upon a time (read: the 70s-90s, mostly), the Great American Pastime was routinely celebrated in movies like Major League, A League of Their Own, The Natural and, of course, Field of Dreams and Angels in the Outfield (people naturally love baseball ghosts).
In the present day, the baseball craze has died down somewhat, possibly due to the fact that the sport hasn’t had a huge, Sammy Sosa/Mark Mcgwire-style showdown in years to get amped over. Recent, serious baseball-centric films like Moneyball and 42, which told the story of Jackie Robinson, have seen success, but there hasn’t been the same wave of feel-good sports flicks that Bobby and his Little League team could go catch after practice together. Now, there’s a film coming down the pipeline that is attempting to fill that void.
Here we have Million Dollar Arm, a Disney concoction starring Jon Hamm that is somehow, regrettably, not about a bionic pitcher. Nor is it attached to a Million Dollar Baby. Hamm plays real-life sports agent J.B. Bernstein, who once saw huge career success with baseball greats but isn’t bringing in the talent anymore. His crazy scheme to rectify his career is to travel to India and create a reality show with young cricket players, the best of which come back with him to America to try out for the Majors. It’s like Trouble with the Curve, but with a game that lasts for a week.
As with all Disney movies, Bernstein’s tough exterior can already be seen cracking in the brief sampling of the film shown in the trailer. He might be a no-nonsense sports agent doing this for the money and the glory, but when he gets the approval of beautiful, kind neighbor Lake Bell, it helps him see that he really cares about the boys and their well-being. There is crying in baseball, dad.
Hamm seems to be keeping with his usual smarmy charm, playing an updated version of the jerk that he has gotten so good at portraying in his years down at Madison Avenue. As much as this seems to be a fish out of water flick about the boys traveling to America from India and switching from cricket to baseball, it seems to be the same about Bernstein stepping out of his element from high powered executive to surrogate dad.
While the trailer makes no qualms about the boys’ immense pitching talent and their potential in the Majors, it does spend an inordinate amount of time on making some easy class and cultural differences jokes on their behalf. Let’s laugh at these hilarious folks who have never ridden in an elevator before — can you believe that? Let’s hope the film focuses more on the love of the game and the actual process of making it to the Majors than the easy gags. It has the potential to spark another baseball film movement — and isn’t about time we got a legitimate update on The Sandlot?
Million Dollar Arm is in theaters in Spring 2014.