1 The Mickey Mindset: Million Dollar Arm Film Review

Friday, May 9, 2014

Million Dollar Arm Film Review

Matthew Soberman- Since the success of Remember the Titans in 2000, every few years, Disney has released a docudrama from the world of sports. Some have been more successful than others. At their worst, they’re innocuous fluff. But at their best, they can tell a riveting story that can make an audience cheer. I’ve been particularly fond of these films. (I don’t care what anyone tells me, there’s a spot in my list of 10 Favorite Disney Films for Miracle.) I also have a deep love for baseball and baseball movies. So when I found out that Disney’s next sports docudrama was returning to baseball for the first time since 2002’s The Rookie, I was pretty excited. What I ultimately saw was pretty good. It wasn’t Disney’s best effort, but it was far from its worst.

Jon Hamm plays J.B. Bernstein, a once-powerful sports agent now struggling to stay alive in his cutthroat industry. After the latest potential client walks away, Bernstein hatches an audacious plan to find a potential baseball player in India after watching an Indian cricket match with his business partner and friend, Ash Vasudevan (Aasif Mandvi). How? By organizing, with the help of former baseball scout Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin) and Indian coach Amit (Pitobash), a reality TV show called “Million Dollar Arm,” where cricket players compete to throw the best baseball strikes. The winner, Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma), and the runner up, Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) are both flown to Los Angeles, along with Amit, where they are coached by Tom House (Bill Paxton). Eventually, there’s the seemingly requisite culture shock and conflict when the client that walked out on Bernstein seems interested in his services once again, all as the internationally televised tryout in front of representatives of 24 of the 30 Major League Baseball teams draws near.

The film benefits from a great ensemble, yet is ultimately underutilized as almost all of the attention is given to Hamm and the trio of Sharma, Mittal, and Pitobash. Mandvi’s character is there mostly to keep the plot going, and Arkin’s character, who I almost guarantee will get the most laughs in virtually any viewing of this film, disappears for the second act. Lake Bell plays Brenda, Hamm’s sub-letter and love interest who basically serves as the moral compass for most of the film. While the romantic subplot is well-performed by Bell and Hamm, it does feel a bit unnecessary most of the time. But great performances, particularly by Hamm, Sharma, Mittal, and Arkin, kept me interested and had me rooting for these characters, even though I already knew how it ended (which I won’t spoil here, but a simple Wikipedia search for either Rinku Singh or Dinesh Patel will give you an answer). Ultimately, Million Dollar Arm is much like a hot dog at a ballgame; it’s not the best thing for you that you could be eating, but there’s some nutritional value there. It tastes good, and will leave you feeling good for a while after you eat it. So while Million Dollar Arm isn’t a grand slam, it’s a stand-up triple, and as any baseball fan will tell you, that’s not too shabby.

Million Dollar Arm opens in North America on May 16th 2014

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