Million Dollar Arm

Posted: May 19, 2014 in Movie Reviews

Jon Hamm_Million Dollar Arm

We’ve all seen those “wealth and success are not what’s important in life, friends and family are” films. You know, the ones that usually focus on an egotistical businessman who ultimately learns the lesson of what it means to love and not just live? As commonplace as those kinds of films may be, it doesn’t always necessarily subtract from their enjoyment.

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Summary: (Spoiler-free)

Faced with certain financial disaster after failing to recruit a multi-million dollar NBA player, sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm—–The Town) must discover and exploit some untapped talent to keep himself afloat. The answer, he claims, is Million Dollar Arm—–a three-month campaign to recruit India’s first Major League Baseball players, thus ensuring over 1 billion new baseball fans.

The fruits of his labor yield two young men (Suraj Sharma—–Life of Pi, and Madhur Mittal—–Slumdog Millionaire), both of whom display adeptness at pitching. But J.B.’s “business investments” quickly turn into a full-time job, as the boys must both adapt to their new ethnic environment as well as grow into Major League baseball players. Along the way, J.B. learns what it means to have fun with the game and what it means to put family before the job.

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 With so many of these Disney based-on-a-true-story films, it’s very difficult to come up with something fresh and new on every take. And while the stories may differentiate, the general structure is usually quite similar. It’s the time-tested formula for sports films.

The story, though, the story is the key. And while Million Dollar Arm bears a similar story arc to the multiple other sports films in existence, the story lends itself well. It doesn’t all take place in America, but also on location in India. It was refreshing to be able to get out of sports-obsessed America and get to see how the rest of the world lives.

The cast all perform quite well, with Alan Arkin even lending his geriatric talent for a while. The scriptwriters have no apprehensions inserting well-placed humor into the screenplay and dialogue, and several jokes and comedic scenarios will no doubt have you laughing out loud.

Jon Hamm, Suraj Sharma, Pitobash, Madhur Mittal_Million Dollar Arm

From a sports standpoint, however, it’s a bit light. My favorite sports films are the ones that deviate from the heavy sports drama to focus on a riveting story (Miracle, The Blind Side, etc.) But with Million Dollar Arm, you almost wish there’d be more. Outside the occasional snippets of people pitching and the actual contest that takes place in India, there aren’t really any games or competitions to speak of. But, for the general sports-lax viewer, this detail may just fly right past without any notice.

In a nutshell:

Even though it’s a bit formulaic and generally all-around predictable, and it doesn’t really bring anything new to Disney’s archive of sports films, these things don’t subtract from the fact that Million Dollar Arm is still an enjoyable film that almost anybody can watch and appreciate. Whether you’re into baseball or whether you just like a feel-good film that removes you from the real world for two hours, Million Dollar Arm is the sort of film that leaves you with a smile and time (and money) well spent.

 

7.5 stars

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