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FEEL-GOOD MOVIES FEEL GOOD

           

There was a time — long ago, now — when movies that made you feel good, that got you cheering for the underdog, that sent you out of the theater with a warm feeling and a smile on your face were the norm.

Dark films were popular, too, from gangster/film noir thrillers to horror movies to down-on-your-luck melodramas, even sardonic comedies.

But feel-good movies were shown in theaters just as often, perhaps more often. And going to the movies to get away from your troubles and be cheered up for a few hours was a common pastime.

This was most famously true during the Depression as talking pictures were supplanting the silent era and happy-go-lucky musical extravaganzas were all the rage.

But the desire has always been there for some moviegoers, and in particular those who wish to go to the movies with families in tow. A little guy overcoming the odds on that 40-foot movie screen could give audience members a little hope, too.

These days, however, such films are few and far between. And you need to diligently seek them out or they'll make a minor splash and disappear as quickly as they came.

And for some reason, in the 21st century, films with competitive-sports themes seem to dominate that territory. You want an uplifting movie you can see with the family? It's probably going to have sporting component.

You can count on the fingers of one hand the 21st century movies that come from major studios during the course of a year and are encouraging and appealing and rated PG — and outside the sports box.

But PG-rated sports movies with a positive message that fill the family moviegoing bill arrive with some regularity. Think "Remember the Titans" (2000), "The Rookie" (2002), "Miracle" (2004), "The Greatest Game Ever Played" (2005), "Glory Road" (2006), "Pride" (2007), "Secretariat" (2010), "The Mighty Macs" (2011) … and there are many more.

Now add "Million Dollar Arm," which is currently in theaters, though it's not getting nearly as much attention as the summer blockbusters, "Godzilla," "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," with more on the way. (It's only May!)

                 

           Madhur Mittal, Suraj Sharma, Jon Hamm, 'Million Dollar Arm.'

"Million Dollar Arm" is a warm, funny and thoroughly engaging true story of a sports agent who comes up with an outrageous gimmick to groom new baseball talent, a competitive reality show in India that may attract talented cricket players who can convert their pitching arms to fit into America's favorite pastime.

The cast is led by the star of cable-TV's "Mad Men" as real-life agent J.B. Bernstein, and the actors playing the two Indian recruits were in, respectively, "Life of Pi" and "Slumdog Millionaire." If you don't watch "Mad Men" and haven't seen those two films, the names Jon Hamm, Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal may be unfamiliar. But each is perfect in his role.

And "Million Dollar Arm" is not really about baseball; it's more about a middle-aged man who has let his life slip by while ignoring its most important component: family.

Bill Paxton has a supporting role as a baseball coach and Lake Bell is completely charming as a nurse who rents a room from J.B., and they both understand better than J.B. what these two young men need after being uprooted from their poverty-stricken villages to life in the fast lane in Los Angeles.

Alan Arkin is also here, hilariously stealing every one of his scenes as a grizzled baseball scout.

So don't let "Million Dollar Arm" leave theaters without your ticket-purchasing support. This one's from Disney, and we should encourage the studio to make more.

Even if they have to be set against the backdrop of some professional sport.