Million Dollar Arm is another inspirational sports film, but this time the twist is that a good portion of the movie takes place in India, and it’s based on true events. The film focuses on a failing baseball agent who comes up with the idea of recruiting cricket players from India to play professional baseball in the US. The story is heartwarming, but the problem is that the movie takes too long to get to it.
Jon Hamm plays JB, but instead of Jon Hamm you can just as easily picture it as Don Draper from Mad Men and you wouldn’t be able to tell much of a difference in their personalities. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as it’s not a stretch to see a New York ad man having a similar personality to a sports agent. However, given that Hamm is currently best known for his exceptional work on Mad Men, it’s hard not to see Don Draper in this film.
While Hamm is convincing as JB, it’s Pitobash, Suraj Sharma, and Madhur Mittal that steal the show as Amit the eager assistant, and the two Indian baseball hopefuls, Rinku and Dinesh, respectively. Pitobash as Amit is arguably the best performance in the film. He embraces the inquisitive and overly helpful nature of the character and not only adds an emotional touch, but a bit of much needed comedy as well. The two baseball players, Rinku and Dinesh are taken from their home land and placed in the upside down world of Los Angeles and professional baseball. You feel how much the two long for home, how much they desire to impress JB, and their affection toward JB’s tenant Brenda, played by Lake Bell.
The main issue with the film is simply how long it takes for JB to come up with the idea to head to India to find cricket players, travel to India, and eventually get back to the US. The build up to JB flying to India is fine, and once he arrives a few interesting exchanges keep things moving. However, the lengthy process of narrowing down the potential players feels exhausting. What seemed like a good 30 minutes could have easily been cut in half without losing anything of importance. Even the comedic jabs of Ray (played by Alan Arkin), an elderly talent scout, aren’t enough to keep things moving during this time. Once the crew returns to Los Angeles, the movie picks up and becomes far more entertaining.
JB introduces the hopeful players to Tom House (Bill Paxton), to help train the pair for a baseball tryout. Paxton adds a solid sense of realism to the events taking place on-screen, as he fights with JB while helping the audience to understand the difficulties of the task ahead. You feel the players working hard and improving, while JB becomes distracted. For a time you almost begin to dislike JB due to what he’s putting everyone through.
For the most part Million Dollar Arm will fill any needs you have for an inspirational sports film. The pacing a little off when the crew arrives in India, but the acting holds up throughout the movie, with enough humor, wit, and raw emotion to keep the audience engaged for the duration. You won’t find anything new or particularly original here, but more of the same isn’t always a bad thing. The underlying story is heartfelt and the actors do a commendable job of telling the story on the silver screen.
Million Dollar Arm:[usr 3.5]
About Million Dollar Arm
Synopsis: A sports agent stages an unconventional recruitment strategy to get talented Indian cricket players to play Major League Baseball.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Thomas McCarthy
Stars: Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin
Runtime: 124 Minutes