By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Disney’s movie about the Patel/Singh baseball success story does make for some mostly benign family entertainment, but doesn’t really bring anything new or dynamic to sports movies. Nonetheless, the story of how two Indian young men from humble backgrounds came to play major league baseball is a remarkable one and director Craig Gillespie and writer Thomas McCarthy give it a proper treatment. Starring Jon Hamm as real-life sports agent J.B. Bernstein, Million Dollar Arm is a sweet and good hearted film that should please most of its audiences.
During a time of crisis for his agency, J.B. Bernstein and his partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) desperately seek solutions or face closure of their business. Bernstein comes up with idea of recruiting Indian cricket players for major league baseball via a reality show competition called Million Dollar Arm. Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku Singh (Surah Sharma) end up winning the competition the first season of the show and are given the opportunity to seek recruitment. The problem is that neither of these two young men have ever played cricket and have much difficulty working on their pitching accuracy. If the first season of the show fails to get Patel and Singh recruited, Bernstein and Aash are finished.
Gillespie and McCarthy offer few surprises with this movie. This film plays out like most sports success stories. Those who already know the story of Patel and Singh won’t really discover too much new that they don’t already know. McCarthy does, however, include a little romance and also sends a message about the nature of the sports business. Director and writer also effectively build up the drama and tension. The ending plays out a bit too perfectly and offers the super-happy Hollywood ending, but everything leading up to that moment is rather satisfying. The humor works on a charming and adorable level, and the characters all have genial and charismatic qualities.
Jon Hamm performs well in the lead role. His natural screen presence and charm help make his character an empathetic one. The lovely and talented Lake Bell makes a welcome addition to the cast as Brenda, Bernstein’s tenant and love interest. Life of Pi‘s Suraj Sharma stars as Rinku Singh and Slumdog Millionaire‘s Madhur Mittal portrays Dinesh Patel. These two talented young actors pull off their roles nicely. Offering some fun comic relief are Pitobash who plays Bernstein’s assistant and translator Amit Rohan and Alan Arkin who stars as Ray Poitevint, a sports scout who has a good ear for pitching.
While Million Dollar Arm is a fine and likable film, nothing about it begs for it to be seen on the big screen. At most, I would recommend paying to see it as a matinee, but full price would be spending too much for a movie that could make for a lovely family movie night at home.