In the tradition of Disney’s true-life inspirational sports films such as Remember the Titans, Miracle, and Secretariat comes Million Dollar Arm, inspired by the true story of sports agent JB Bernstein and his quest to find the next great big league pitching ace by holding a reality show style contest abroad in India.  Even with a release sandwiched between Disney’s blockbuster tent poles Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Malificent, Million Dollar Arm is fun, inspirational and original enough to hold its own and please a wide audience, giving it the potential to be a successful sleeper hit.

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Although based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm has a similar foundation to another well-known fictional sports agent movie, Jerry Maguire.  At the beginning of the film, we find sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm), who once represented marquee-name athletes, now struggling financially and not being able to find anyone to represent after going independent.  While drowning his sorrows and channel surfing one evening, he has a revelation and comes up with an idea to create an X-Factor / American Idol style reality contest to find the next great MLB pitching star among cricket-playing athletes in India.  After a huge media splash in India, complete with game show hosts and Bollywood-style dancers on stage, JB finds Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), who just happen not to be cricket players at all (and hate the sport, in fact).  JB eventually brings the two contenders back to America to train and hopefully be recruited by an MLB team.  Being JB’s last best hope and only ‘clients’, Rinku and Dinesh end up living with JB and connecting with him on a personal level, almost establishing a parent-child relationship.  This is where the ‘fish out of water’ elements kick in as well, with the boys discovering MTV, pizza and getting drunk at lavish celebrity athlete parties.  Conflicts arise as JB struggles to work through the distractions of re-energizing his agency while also focusing on boys who themselves are struggling to find self-confidence and comfort while being far away from home.  Along the way, JB is challenged to get in touch with his romantic, down to earth side by his tenant, Brenda (Lake Bell) – think the Renee Zellweger character in Maguire, without the “you complete me” drama and heaviness.

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There is a healthy dose of comedy here, largely from boys’ translator and wannabe baseball coach Amit (Pitobash), who pushes the fish out of water elements to the limit in a funny and engaging way.  Alan Arkin also makes a big, comedic impact as an often sleepy, retired baseball scout who helps JB find talent in India.  Bill Paxton is also well-cast in a small, yet significant, role as unconventional USC pitching coach Tom House.  As JB, Hamm is headlining for the first time in a major motion picture and is actually a solid leading man at that, easily demonstrating to us his character’s desperation, guilt and down to earth emotional swings.  Sharma and Mittal also do a fine job communicating their characters’ wonder, confusion and self-doubt.

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Families can most definitely enjoy Million Dollar Arm together, as the inspirational aspects of the story will teach the younger ones to always do their best.  There are some rated-PG moments in the film, but overall the movie is a family-friendly Disney affair, with enough edginess to keep parents and other ‘older’ folks entertained and laughing out loud.

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While the ending won’t come as a surprise (inspirational sports stories are all about the journey), the engaging (and well-cast) performances will surely entertain, and a healthy twist of Indian culture and fish out of water comedy (in both America and India) infuse Million Dollar Arm with fun, originality and freshness.

Fun & Inspiring - Review of 'Million Dollar Arm'
'Million Dollar Arm' is fun and inspiring enough to hold its own amid other blockbusters and please a wide audience, giving it the potential to be a successful sleeper hit. While the ending won't come as a surprise, the engaging performances will surely entertain, and a healthy twist of Indian culture and fish out of water comedy infuse 'Million Dollar Arm' with fun, originality and freshness.
Story
Performances
Comedy/Fun
Inspiring-ness
Disneymeter
Magical!
  • Jon Hamm
  • Rinku, Dinesh & Amit
  • Inspiring Baseball Film
4.5Overall Score