Million Dollar Arm, which stars Jon Hamm, tells the true story of sports agent J.B. Bernstein. His career floundering, Bernstein and his partner go to India and return accompanied by two young cricket players they hope to convert into Major League pitchers.
Aside from some shenanigans in a hotel elevator and a little gap-jawed gazing at a fancy party, the fertile comedic ground of two rural Indian boys in L.A. is left fallow. Bernstein's would-be pitchers are mere bit players; the film is focused far more on Bernstein. Which means that Million Dollar Arm is the story of a rich, handsome, straight, white male trying to maintain his affluent lifestyle. Which means it’s really boring.
That boringness will be familiar to any sports’ fan whose fandom has enticed them to the multiplex in recent years. More and more, sports movies these days don’t have sports in them—a frustrating trend that presumes the ever-more-publicized sideshows and back-room deals of athletics are more interesting than games themselves.
Jerry Maguire (1996) is the most obvious antecedent to Million Dollar Arm, and to the no-sports-sports-movie genre more broadly. In terms of story arc, Maguire and Arm are virtually identical: A struggling sports agent learns that there is more to life than work, and so paradoxically becomes better at his job. Both films are much more concerned with the namesake agent's career and love life than with anything happening on the field.