“I should like baseball,” I thought to myself while walking out of Million Dollar Arm. I had a similar thought after watching 2011’s Moneyball. I have not since followed that thought with action. It will likely stay in that inactive area of my brain until another inspirational story zaps it again. I may not be a fan of sports, but I’m a sucker for good inspirational stories about overcoming adversity. Million Dollar Arm is just that and I truly enjoyed this film.
Million Dollar Arm is the true story of Sports Agent J.B. Bernstein’s (John Hamm) last ditch effort to save his job. The plan is simple: find two ball players from India (a since untapped market for major league sports) and turn them into pros. His logic? India, known for Cricket, must have some players with a strong enough arm to pitch in major league baseball. Seems reasonable, so off he goes to Mumbai to begin planning for the “Million Dollar Arm” contest. It is here that the first “fish out of water” situations begin as the uptight American comes face to face with the people-oriented India Culture. This makes for some humorous and uncomfortable moments. It is in India we meet baseball enthusiast Amit (Pitobash), a javelin thrower named Rinku (Suraj Sharma, Life of Pi), and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal, Slumdog Millionaire) a field hockey player. These three relatively new actors brought about some of the most poignant and entertaining moments in Million Dollar Arm. The supporting cast including Aasif Mandvi (Aash), Lake Bell (Brenda), Alan Arkin (Ray), and Bill Paxton (Tom House), round out this film with believable characters that truly have importance to the story.
Inspirational sports movies are like romantic comedies in that they typically follow a similar arch.
The formula looks something like this: (1) We meet the characters (2) They get a new opportunity (3) Things go well (4) Things turn sour (5) There is progress, overcoming, and redemption. Million Dollar Arm doesn’t stray to far from this formula. However, on top of the story of these athletes coming to America for a new opportunity, we had a refreshing subplot about the redemption of J.B. Bernstein’s character. Bernstein, we learn early on, is a womanizing man focused on self with a habit of holding any real responsibility at arms length. It is the events that redeem this aspect of his character that I found most compelling. I went into this movie expecting a happy ending for Amit, Rinku, Dinesh and J.B. but the form it took had a surprising emotional impact on me. Perhaps I’m becoming sappy in my old age.
Million Dollar Arm surprised me. I expected a cookie-cutter inspirational film. I got an above-average, inspirational film. It was not the best movie in the genre of inspirational sports films I’ve ever seen, but it’s one of the first movies this year to draw me in emotionally. That has to mean something. For a full content breakdown check out the plugged in online review.
What did you think of Million Dollar Arm? Leave your comments below! There are no bad ideas in brainstorming.
P.S. Million Dollar Arm is a based on a true story, SPOILER ALERT!