Review: Disney’s “Million Dollar Arm” doesn’t break new ground, still hits a home run as feel-good sports flick

in Disney, Movies, Reviews

Based on a true story, sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) finds that business has changed and things aren’t going well for his career. In a last-ditch effort to save his livelihood, he concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next great pitching ace. Hoping to find a young cricket pitcher he can turn into a Major League Baseball star, JB travels to India to produce a reality show called “The Million Dollar Arm.”

With the help of cantankerous but eagle-eyed baseball scout Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin), he discovers Dinesh (played by Madhur Mittal from “Slumdog Millionaire”) and Rinku (played by Suraj Sharma from “Life of Pi”), 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 America to train.

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), learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.

“Million Dollar Arm” is directed by Craig Gillespie and also stars Bill Paxton and Aasif Mandvi. The producers are Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray, through their Mayhem Pictures, and Joe Roth, under his Roth Films banner. Tom McCarthy wrote the screenplay. A. R. Rahman is the film’s composer.

Every few years, the Walt Disney Company releases a sports film that succeeds in the heart land and does well at the box office. This go around we have “Million Dollar Arm.” I’ll admit I wasn’t initially interested when I saw the trailer. But then part of me wanted to trust that it would be at least enjoyable since Disney rarely misses a step with these kinds of films. The Rookie, Cool Runnings, Remember the Titans and especially The Mighty Ducks are some of my favorites.

Watching “Million Dollar Arm” gave me a strange feeling of nostalgia. They don’t make these kinds of movies as often as they used to and if felt like visiting an old friend. The film is good. It’s equal parts “Jerry Maguire,” “The Rookie,” and “Slumdog Millionaire.” All of this in a very good way.

Most of these heartfelt sports films are paint by numbers. There’s a proven formula that works. And “Million Dollar Arm” is no different. But it’s a fun ride with charming characters that you just want to succeed.

Nothing at all during the 2-hour film surprised me but I got up from my theater seat feeling good about life and pretending that I actually care about baseball. If one thinks too much about it, it feels like a brilliant marketing play; trying to capture a foreign market on a typically American sports film. But then again, that’s actually the story of the film. How meta.

Jon Hamm did a fine job as the money loving agent who learns to care as did the supporting players, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton, and Lake Bell.

Madhur Mittal and Suraj Sharma played the likeable fish-out-of-water Dinesh and Rinku. My big gripe with the film is that they had little to no arc. I wish they had been given more of story. Most of the life change was given to Hamm.

My favorite character was Hamm’s sidekick Amit (played by Pitobash), the Indian who wasn’t blessed with the body for baseball but was filled with more passion than anyone. The screenwriter brilliantly gave my favorite and arguably the best scene in the film to Amit. Look for it during the film’s climax.

Despite feeling a bit familiar, I enjoyed the film tremendously and I recommend it to anyone who likes this kind of movie. I know it’s cliche, but I predict Disney has a HOME RUN on their hands. (I couldn’t resist.)

in Disney, Movies, Reviews

View Comments (5)