Million Dollar Arm (2014) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for mild language and some suggestive content
Running Time: 124 min.
Cast: Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, Aasif Mandvi, Pitobash, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal, Bill Paxton, Alan Arkin, Darshan Jariwala, Tzi Ma, Allyn Rachel, Rey Maualuga
Cameo: Curt Schilling, Barry Larkin, Steve Levy, Karl Ravech
Director: Craig Gillespie
Screenplay: Thomas McCarthy
Review published May 16, 2014
Disney's Million Dollar Arm probably won't win any awards for unpredictability, but it does go down plenty easy, and delivers what most interested viewers want and expect from such a film going in. To some adults, it might feel a little like a watered-down, PG-rated take on Jerry Maguire, complete with an emphasis on the agent finding a romantic interest who mellows him out. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, as one isn't expecting more than an interesting and heartwarming drama rife with moments of levity and good fun.
Loosely based on a true story, Jon Hamm (Bridesmaids, Sucker Punch) stars as struggling Los Angeles-based sports agent J.B. Bernstein, who finds funding to travel to various locations in India in search of young arms of cricket players who might be able to generate enough speed and accuracy in their throws to perhaps make it in Major League Baseball in America. The purpose of the trip is two-fold: to generate interest (and much needed money for his business) to create the Indian-televised reality-show contest known as "Million Dollar Arm", and also to promote the baseball brand in a country that has over a billion potential new fans.
The problem is that Bernstein has to get someone to the point of qualifying for a tryout with a big league franchise, something that seems next to impossible to do given that he's dealing with people who've never heard of baseball, much less touched one. Through a series of laborious tryouts, the two best prospects end up being Rinku (Sharma, Life of Pi) and Dinesh (Mittal, Slumdog Millionaire), who've never traveled away from their native villages, and whose fish-out-of-water experience only compounds their problems in trying to feel comfortable enough on the mound to throw strikes at high velocity.
Million Dollar Arm sports a solid cast and some good creative talent in the form of director Craig Gillespie (Fright Night, Mr. Woodcock) and screenwriter Thomas McCarthy (Win Win, The Station Agent). Much of the film plays like a comedy, a fairly typical one basd on culture clashes, not only from Indians visiting the US for the first time, but also Americans trying to adjust to Indian customs. Stereotypes do abound, though done with a playful air.
While it's never much more than an innocuously cute sports-themed film, it hits its marks with the requisite precision required without losing hold of its overall genial, amusing tone. At 124 minutes, it is a good 20 minutes longer than the material needs to be, especially considering the superfluous side plots and characters that serve no purpose at all but for a few mild chuckles. Still, like watching a real baseball game, it's a bit long and undemanding, but leisurely enjoyable enough to kick back with a favorite beverage of choice and have an agreeably pleasant time.
©2014 Vince Leo