“Million Dollar Arm” Delivers a Strike (Film Review)

MILLION ARM poster 1


Based on a true story, Walt Disney Pictures brings another fine movie to the screen involving sports.  Returning to baseball Million Dollar Arm opens in local theaters throughout America in the midst of the pros 154th season.  Dramatically presented adding comedy and sweet tears, the movie has all the trappings of a good run at the box-office, as long as the giant lizard doesn’t stomp on it.  However, it’s longevity will be the test as there are a lot of little league, high school and minor league teams that should bump up the tally, and rightly so.

The film follows J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) a sports agent whose career has taken a turn for the worst. Wanting to get back on track he tries to find a way to get noticed and attract more business.  After seeing a cricket game on television he gets the idea of going to India to find a baseball player who can pitch in professional baseball.  He offers a million dollars to a young man who can throw the fastest in a pitching competition called “The Million Dollar Arm”.

Jon Hamm as JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm

Jon Hamm as J.B. Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm

Gathering a lot of attention, he combs India having tryouts for the final group.  During the pitch off Bernstein finds two 18 year-olds, Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) that qualify to train in the United States for a tryout in front of major league baseball scouts. But, it’s not all roses for Bernstein and he finds himself tweaking his approach in the final exhibition and calling on Brenda (Lake Bell) his tenant living his cottage for assistance.

There’s a lot of comedy mixed throughout with Bernstein’s hired Indian interpreter Amit Rohan (Pitobash) working with entrants of the contest and offering suggestions outlandish suggestions. Director Craig Gillespie keeps his film light with some well placed situations that allow for Rohan’s funny antics.  The story gets somewhat sappy at times, but Gillespie keeps it from getting overly maudlin up to the final act.  The two hours captivates and endures moving along quickly with very little drag or boring scenes.

Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), Rinku (Suraj Sharma), Bernstein (John Hamm) and Amit Rohan (Pitobash)

Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), Rinku (Suraj Sharma), Bernstein (John Hamm) and Amit Rohan (Pitobash)

Gillespie puts together a good sports film that entertains at all age levels.  Although the target market favors males with its baseball theme, much like Moneyball and Jerry Maguire the movie reaches out to twenties plus females with a good measure of romance and family relationships.  His acting team works hard to make the film work for everyone in this PG effort. Jon Ham fills the bill as the stylish businessman hell bent on getting back to the top of his game.  He shows Bernstein’s vulnerable side in both the business and romance end as he muddles his way through his last ditch effort to get his life back on track.

In support, Bill Paxton plays Tom House, the coach of USC who instructs the two India prospects for their tryouts.  Frustrated at times, House is concerned about Bernstein’s possible failure in getting the boys attention from major league scouts and making a fool of himself in the bargain. He says that it’s Major League Baseball he’s dealing with and not some social experiment. Adding a little comedy Alan Arkin plays Ray Poitevint a master when it comes to finding pitchers.  He doesn’t have to look at their style, just shuts his eyes and listens for the right baseball pitch. He’s also concerned that Bernstein is making a folly out of baseball with his competition.

Craig Gillespie on the set of Million Dollar Arm

Craig Gillespie on the set of Million Dollar Arm

But it’s Dinesh, Rinku and Amit who steal the show with the three actors showing the wonder of coming from India and seeing what America has to offer.  They are wowed by all the luxuries, modern living and future possibilities for themselves as they bungle through the very different social climate. They add comedy and a lot of adventure making the movie touching and inspirational as the boys take the journey of their life.

Million Dollar Arm has been rated PG by the MPAA for mild language and some suggestive content.  Its fun for the whole family and even the ladies will feel the enchantment as the movie spools out. While it’s not on the level of Miracle, The Rookie or Secretariat as some of the ads tout, it does have a nice outcome with a lot of sweet moments.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A cool family film being released at the perfect time, baseball season. (B)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Lake Bell, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash and Alan Arkin
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Genre: Drama, Sports
MPAA Rating: PG for mild language and some suggestive content
Running Time: 2 hrs 4 minutes
Release Date: May 16, 2014
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures

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