Slumdog Millionaire meets Jerry Maguire? That’s a major-league oversimplification, but Million Dollar Arm works for a lot of the same reasons that those flicks did: good writing, good story, great casting, a lot of humor, and even more heart. Plus, it’s based on real events, which makes it even more endearing. This flick goes in the ‘win’ column for chicks and dudes alike.
Jon Hamm (Mad Men) plays JB Bernstein, a sports agent struggling to salvage the career that defines and drives him, personally and professionally. In a metaphorical ‘hail Mary’, JB concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next pitching ace – from the field of talented cricket players in India. He travels to India to produce a reality show competition called “The Million Dollar Arm”, guaranteeing the top two pitching prospects a hefty sum and a try-out with Major League Baseball. With the help of a retired scout (Alan Arkin playing quintessential Alan Arkin), JB discovers Dinesh (Madhur Mittal from Slumdog Millionaire) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma from Life of Pi), two young guys with strong arms and big dreams. Dinesh and Rinku end up living with JB at his swank digs in L.A. while they train for their tryout. But the situation takes some twists and turns as the pressure mounts on all involved.
The supporting cast is stellar. Pitobash Tripathy is a scene-stealer as Amit, a baseball fan in India who loves the sport so much that he’s willing to work on the project for free; Aasif Mandvi plays JB’s supportive business partner; Bill Paxton plays the pitching coach tasked with getting the guys ready for the big leagues; and Lake Bell shines as JB’s neighbor – a doctor who befriends the Indian houseguests and teaches JB a thing or two about commitment, friendship and family.
Million Dollar Arm is a feel-good movie from the Disney feel-good factory. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to root for this flick. But it certainly doesn’t hurt.