MILLION DOLLAR ARM – The Review
Disney’s MILLION DOLLAR ARM might not bat 1000, but it’s certainly a high hitter that will leave you entertained and inspired.
MILLION DOLLAR ARM tells the true story of sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm). With his career going south he takes a shot in the dark and travels to India in the hopes of finding a cricket pitcher with MLB potential by holding a contest called “The Million Dollar Arm.” After discovering two young athletes with potential, Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma), he brings them back to the Los Angeles to begin training for a MLB tryout. Things, however, don’t always go according to plan. The boys have never lived outside of their small village, so JB is forced to take them in and care for them, shaking up his bachelor lifestyle. With the help of his guest house tenant Brenda (Lake Bell), the boys learn the fundamentals of baseball, and JB gets a lesson in teamwork, family, and love.
First off, I’m glad that they cast an actual baseball / sports fan as JB Bernstein. Jon Hamm’s knowledge of the game, although not showcased enough, made for a convincing portrayal of the sports agent. We all know that Hamm can play the asshole rather well, as showcased in his portrayal of Don Draper on AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ and as Bernstein in this film, but he also shows audiences JB’s warm, fun-loving side, which I’m sure was difficult to pull off. It’s hard to make a character likable after they are presented as a jerk, especially when that jerk is crying all over his expensive suit while driving around in a Porsche, but somehow Hamm does it. The only thing about his performance that I found somewhat unlikeable for this St. Louis Cardinals fan was seeing Hamm in a Los Angeles Dodgers hat (See photo at top of this article). I had to tell myself “It’s just a movie! It’s just a movie!” I kid. Well, kind of… Cards fan for life!
Jon Hamm is complimented on-screen by the hilarious Lake Bell. The two have an incredible chemistry, and are no strangers to working with one another (You can catch Hamm guest starring on Adult Swim’s ‘Children’s Hospital’). Bell shows us more than just laughs as the goofy, somewhat annoying Brenda in the film. She also shows heart. I can’t wait to see her in different types of roles. Also, it would be pretty cool to see the two of them do a ‘Thrilling Adventure Hour’ together, because their ‘back and fourth’ is hilarious.
Rounding out the cast are Suraj Sharma (LIFE OF PI) and Madhur Mittal (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE). The two do an incredible job of playing Rinku and Dinesh, who went on to become pitchers for the Pittsburgh Pirates. One of my big problems with this film was how little they focused on the story of the boys. I know that the film is more focused on Bernstein, but I would have liked for them to have delved deeper into these characters. They left their families, and went from poverty to a life of luxury. This had to be an incredibly difficult adventure to go on. I would have liked them to showcase more of that! We’ve already seen that Sharma and Mittal are incredible actors, why not give them a chance to really shine? They didn’t utilize their talents nearly enough, which is disappointing.
The overall feel of the film had a bit of that ‘made-for-tv” vibe. If you were alive during the 80’s and 90’s you know what I’m talking about. Disney has had a long run of making TV Disney Channel Original Movies revolving around sports such as DOUBLE TEAMED, BRINK!, RIP GIRLS and MOTORCROSSED. MILLION DOLLAR ARM shows a glimmer of the same wholesome, inspirational beat that it showcases in all of their films. Is it cheesy and predictable? Yes. Does it still warm your heart? You bet. I would have liked for things to be shaken up a bit, but hey… it’s based on a true story. There isn’t going to be some crazy M. Night Shyamalan twist. Sorry folks.
The best sports movies are really just movies about people living their lives. MILLION DOLLAR ARM does a pretty decent job of pulling this off with likable characters in a PG version of this story. I’m sure that there is a ton to this story that we don’t know, but hey, it’s Disney. It’s refreshing to see a movie that kept families in mind while making it, because I’m willing to bet that this film could have easily been made with a PG-13, or even an R rating.
Despite the predictability, and the lack of character development for Sharma and Mittal’s characters, MILLION DOLLAR ARM is a family friendly film that is worth a trip to the theaters.
OVERALL RATING : 3.75 out of 5 stars
MILLION DOLLAR ARM swings into theaters May 16