Movie Review: Million Dollar Arm
Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm follows a story of an ambitious sports agent named J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm). JB, who is struggling to keep his firm afloat, devises an idea that would bring “a billion, with a ‘B’” fans to the game of baseball. Inspired by watching a few games of cricket, Bernstein proposes a competition known as “Million Dollar Arm”, a reality TV competition/publicity stunt that will award a million dollars and the possibility of being signed to a Major League Baseball team. Of course, things aren’t as easy as they sound. The movie charts Bernstein’s journey to India, accompanied by a cantankerous scout (Alan Arkin) and an ambitious local translator (Pitobash Tripathy).
He discovers Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma), two 18 year old boys who have no idea about playing baseball, yet have a knack for throwing a fastball. Hoping to sign them to major league contracts and make a quick buck, JB brings the boys home to the United States to be formally trained for their shot at the majors. While the Americans are definitely out of their element in India – the boys, who have never left their rural villages – are equally challenged when they come to the States. As the boys learn the finer points of baseball, JB, with the help of his charming friend Brenda (Lake Bell), learn valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.
The cast works well with Jon Hamm serving as the host throughout the story. Pitobash,as the boys’ interpreter and all-round baseball guru, gives a portrayal that glows with enthusiasm.The would-be baseball players are brought to life by Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma, both of whom play second fiddle to the rest of the cast but provide the inspirational hook to the story. Sure, there are probably a few too many stereotypes throughout the film – both on the Indian and the American sides – but they do ultimately serve the purpose of the story’s inspirational method.
Director Craig Gillespie’s production is slick and smartly paced, with judicious use of montages backed by A.R. Rahman’s rap-infused Indian score. An easygoing and unpretentiously entertaining baseball drama, Million Dollar Arm is just that kind of film, one that tells a terrific story by way of an appealing cast, handsome production values and a warm, unaffected tone. Million Dollar Arm unspools in a fairly predictable manner and even if you’ve never heard of the true story on which this is based, you know within the first 15 minutes exactly how the third act is going to play out. In baseball terms, Million Dollar Arm isn’t a homerun but it is a solid double, and it’s a film that keeps you engaged and entertained throughout its two hour running time.
Families looking for something new to see with the kids, sports fans, and anyone who just wants an entertaining time without superheroes or monsters will likely find Million Dollar Arm the best bet for their weekend viewing.
Cast: Jon Hamm, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash Tripathy, Aasif Mandvi, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Thomas McCarthy