'Million Dollar Arm' (2014) Movie Review

Million Dollar Arm movie review
Madhur Mittal, Suraj Sharma, Jon Hamm and Pitobash Tripathy in Million Dollar Arm
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

Million Dollar Arm is a Disney sports movie, which is to say you should walk in knowing exactly what to expect, a heart-warming film about people rising to the challenge, getting over themselves and finding success in the face of defeat. That's what you should expect and, for the most part, that's what you get.

Perhaps the oddest thing for me, was that it's directed by Craig Gillespie, though he does seem to be making the rounds going from the edgy sports comedy Mr. Woodcock, to the indie dramedy Lars and the Real Girl, the comedic horror in Fright Night and now soft, family fare for Disney. It's a curious directorial path, but he seems comfortable with it.

Million Dollar Arm
Grade: C-

Million Dollar Arm"Million Dollar Arm" is a Walt Disney Pictures release, directed by Craig Gillespie and is rated PG for mild language and some suggestive content. The running time is .

The cast includes Jon Hamm, Bill Paxton, Lake Bell, Suraj Sharma, Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin and Madhur Mittal.

The obvious and easiest comparison to make is to call this film "Jerry Maguire light", which is really saying something since Maguire is pretty light stuff to start with. However, we're dealing with somewhat similar subject matter as JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm), a sports agent that decided a couple years ago to go out on his own, is finding it hard to compete with his more powerful and financially stable competitors. He's reached his wit's end and is looking for an answer when he stumbles upon a cricket match on late night television and the light bulb goes off. He'll set up the baseball equivalent of "American Idol" in India in an attempt to introduce American baseball to an audience of more than 1.2 billion people. Thus the "Million Dollar Arm" competition is born.

JB heads to India in typical "fish out of water" fashion, jokes about Indian stereotypes play out with Pitobash Tripathy serving as something of a comic relief character and JB finds his two champions in Rinku (Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal, the older brother in Slumdog Millionaire). Rinku and Dinesh will next fly to California, train to become baseball pitchers and hope to land a shot in the majors thus completing the circle and making JB financially stable once more.

I'm sure you can see it all playing out in your mind's eye and, for the most part, it plays out as you'd expect. There are ups and downs, JB becomes selfish as he tries to land a big fish recruit while the boys are neglected, working their asses off and sharing their frustrations with JB's guest house tenant (Lake Bell), which reminds me...

If there's one major issue I had with this movie it's that JB is an asshole for the majority of the film. Here's a guy too bothered to care about the Taj Mahal, he's used to living the high-life, driving around in his fancy sports car and cherishing his single life to the point it even becomes a plot point that he will only bed models. They take this to such a lengthy degree that even Lake Bell isn't attractive enough for him. It's so ridiculous I'm surprised they didn't have her wearing horn-rimmed glasses with her hair tied up just so she could walk out one afternoon, toss the glasses to the ground, let down her hair and reveal her body in a bikini. I think we're beyond the point of pretending Hollywood actresses aren't attractive just because the script says so.

All the safe trappings of a story of this sort from the grizzled veteran scout (Alan Arkin), to the goofy sidekick with occasional words of real life wisdom (Aasif Mandvi) and the trainer (Bill Paxton) that points out where JB is failing with the boys and how he needs to show them some support. Guess what he does... nope, I'm not going to tell you... guess.

The best performances come from Sharma and Mittal as well as their respective families back home in India. When the film isn't playing to stereotypes it has an actual layer of honesty, which helps it from becoming overly saccharine to the point it could have been on the Disney Channel rather than the big screen.

A.R. Rahman served as the film's composer and he delivers seven brand new songs and brings along Iggy Azalea, KT Tunstall and Wale for three of them as it begins to play as something of an Indian themed jukebox. I'm not sure there wasn't a scene set in India that didn't at least begin with some upbeat song playing loudly over the top or in the background. Not like that's a bad thing, but it began to feel like they were overcompensating.

The main reason I decided to see this film was because it was written by Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor), but it was clearly a writer-for-hire gig for him as it is so by-the-numbers most any competent Hollywood screenwriter could have put this together. Though this isn't to say it's bad. It's not. It's a perfectly competent film that is everything it sets out to be, but it's not exactly high art or anything that will be talked about four months from now.

It's inspiring to see people rising above their social setting and accomplishing goals they never thought possible or even knew existed. This is a feel good movie and outside of a few eye rolls and the fact the end coda doesn't tell the "entire" story of what happened with Rinku and Dinesh goes to the point of just how safe it actually is, but audiences turning up for this one aren't looking to scrutinize the facts, they just want to feel good and feel good about the world around them. If you're able to get beyond the fact JB is a chauvinistic pig that only cares about himself until he finds out if he doesn't care about someone else he's going to be poor and homeless then you should have no problem with this film, otherwise you might have to ding it a notch or two,


More Movie Reviews

'Straight Outta Compton' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

'Mistress America' (2015) Movie ReviewB+

Mistress America (2015)

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' (2015) Movie ReviewB

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

'Cop Car' (2015) Movie ReviewB-

Cop Car (2015)

More Reviews
  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Hudsucker/ Hudsucker

    I have the feeling Tom McCarthy wrote this just so he could finance The Cobbler.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/T-1000/ TJ

    So you're saying he's basically Don Draper in a baseball movie. Jon Hamm doesn't seem to have a whole lot of range as an actor. Looks decent as a renter.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Newbourne/ Newbourne

      Jon Hamm doesn't seem to have a whole lot of range as an actor.

      Bridesmaids? 30 Rock? Friends with Kids? You obviously have no idea what you're talking about.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/T-1000/ TJ

        How's that supposed to make me feel?

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Newbourne/ Newbourne

          Like you have no idea what you're talking about.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

        I'd argue the range exhibited there isn't exactly broad. Also not sure why you have to be so harsh, isn't there another way to make your case?

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Newbourne/ Newbourne

          You don't think him playing a Jamaican nurse and a slapstick 1960's blackface actor is "broad"? Brad, if you haven't seen the examples I mentioned, then you don't know what I'm talking about either. You can't really judge an actor by 1 or 2 works you've seen. Jon exhibits incredible range on Mad Men alone, let alone all the other stuff he's done.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/kathrynlynn/ kathrynlynn

            He is good in sketch comedy and things like that- but I think he mostly gets to play alpha male assholes. That doesn't mean he doesn't have range- but he mainly does that type of role.

            Even in Bridesmaids- he's Don Draper- just with a comedic twist.

            Which again- isn't bad. Anytime an actor gets to take on an iconic role like he's gotten to it inevitably follows them, filtering a lot of their other roles through that lens.

            But I do think he is funny and willing to be laughed- as exhibited in 30 rock or children's hospital. He also makes a great SNL host.

  • PJ Edwards

    I like it better then you did. I felt that his character had to be an a-hole since he was so obsessed with himself and making money, that he couldn't see the real life happening under his nose. That also fits into why he dated supermodels and ignored lake bell, the cute woman who was renting his guest house. It was a simple character arc. It's not the greatest movie ever, but it is better then the wide release May films thus far.

  • http://letterboxd.com/mrthejarret/ Jarret

    Seeing this tomorrow, I hope it's alright.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/azjoker1/ azjoker1

    I don't know but your review sounds better than your actual grade. It sounds like a B- to me. I'm kind of looking forward to it. I'll catch it sometime when I can.

  • http://www.twitter.com/marlonwallace marlonwallace

    You said the end coda doesn't tell the "entire" story. What more is there to the story? This whole thing feels like it took place not that long ago. What more could have happened in the interim that would be of importance?

    Also, there was a film called 'Sugar' (2008), made by the same filmmakers that made 'Half Nelson', which was about a Dominican player who leaves his home country and comes to the U.S. to play in the minor leagues. That movie hits a lot of the same beats as this movie once the two Indian boys hop on the plane, but 'Sugar' goes further than just the tryouts and does show you more of the career-side. It's better because it's told more from the Dominican's point-of-view, instead of the white recruiter or agent's p.o.v.

    Plus, am I the only one who didn't get the premise? Jon Hamm's character goes to India and has basically an open casting call for any and all young men who wanted to try out. In the end, it didn't even matter that the boys didn't really play Cricket, which was supposedly the inspiration for all this. Granted, they found a guy who could pitch over 90 miles a hour, but still, they could have found a guy like that in any country if they took the time to scour the entire land with an open casting call, even in the United States. I felt like I lost sight of why India? Was it only to have that joke about outsourcing?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Neither of them are in the majors, that's what it doesn't tell you.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/kathrynlynn/ kathrynlynn

    I think the film would have been better served had it focused MORE on the indian players. The focus on JB Bernstein made it almost unbearable for me for the length that the film is.

    And Jon Hamm was fine, though I found him rather boring- but that was the character, not necessarily him. Lake Bell... can we get her some better roles? She was good here too- but I'd love to see her in something where she's getting more to do. Some of the best scenes in the movie were her interactions with the boys.

    I didn't hate the movie, I liked it well enough, I appreciate a decent feel good film, but I think what was missed here was what was truly interesting- the young men from India being in America. As soon as the movie goes from India to LA- it loses my interest, and mostly because it's all about Bernstein. And let's face it... his storyline was dull.