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Million Dollar Arm’ runs the bases

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"Million Dollar Arm" is a baseball movie that pulls off a smooth triple play. It's a character-based comedy drama that's also a smart film about the business of sports. As if it weren't difficult enough to work that double angle, there's also an exotic international focus. The story focuses on immigrant players struggling with social disorientation and homesickness, an underreported aspect of the game that has caused many a gifted recruit to fail. And by the way, it's all based on a true story.

There are a lot of ideas in motion here, but the thoughtful script by Tom McCarthy (of Pixar's "Up") juggles them nimbly. McCarthy writes incisively about character and populates the story with people we like. He portrays the world of high-salary sports management as intensively competitive, even cutthroat. We meet the film's sort-of hero, playboy sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) at a point when his small firm is barely treading water. Bernstein is no idealist but neither is he a cynical jackal. Hamm makes him a complex figure, a man with a conscience but also bills to pay. And models to date. He can do wonders with the curve of a smile or an embarrassed silence.

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