MILLION DOLLAR ARM Movie Review: “Bypassing the System”

Full disclosure:  I hate spoilers in reviews, so there won’t be any in this one.  MILLION DOLLAR ARM is a baseball story, based on the true story of the Indian reality show of the same name.  My favorite sports movie, EIGHT MEN OUT, is also based on a true story and MILLION DOLLAR ARM is now my second favorite sports movie.  Continue reading for our full spoiler-free MILLION DOLLAR ARM movie review.

Million Dollar Arm

 The Commercials

The screening started with a series of commercials for ESPN’s Sports Center, ABC’s “Rising Star” (a new reality talent show) and ABC Family’s “Chasing Life.”  “Chasing Life” seemed intriguing at first, but by the end of the commercial, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t even watch the pilot.

 MILLION DOLLAR ARM

MILLION DOLLAR ARM is centered around J.B. Bernstein, a sports agent trying to make it on his own.  When the film opens, he’s in the middle of trying to land a big contract with a major athlete.  Over the course of the first half hour, we learn that his company is in danger of going under and he needs a big client to keep his business going.   He needs a big idea and finds it in an unusual way, which I’ll let you see for yourself.

Jon Hamm (left) and Aasif Mandvi as business partners JB and Ash. Photo by Ron Phillips ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Jon Hamm (left) and Aasif Mandvi as business partners JB and Ash. Photo by Ron Phillips ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

What they decide to do is create an athlete, rather than sign a known one.  The challenges they face in their search for a youngster with potential are presented smoothly and realistically, rather than with heightened drama around the obstacles, which is a refreshing change from drama-driven, unnecessary suspense-building movies (in case it’s not clear, I don’t like that type of hyped-up drama).  It feels like it could really have happened, which is a good thing, because it did.  There is a romantic element to the story, which also felt real, rather than created as a driving element to the story.

JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) travels to India, photo by John Bramley ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) travels to India, photo by John Bramley ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

The counterpoint to J.B.’s story is the story of the youngsters, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who are given the dream of becoming the “million dollar arm” and their journey from small villages in India to the final tryout in America, learning baseball, English, and American culture along the way.

Dinesh (Madhur Mittal, left) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) win the Million Dollar Arm contest in India, photo by Ishika Mohan ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Dinesh (Madhur Mittal, left) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) win the Million Dollar Arm contest in India, photo by Ishika Mohan ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM is about team-building, facing challenges, and cross-cultural assimilation.  In order to create “Million Dollar Arm,” J.B. has to rely on people from all walks of life, from the children who distribute flyers for the show to the big-money investor who holds the financial key to making the dream come true, but, most importantly, to the kids he needs to turn into baseball players to compete for the million dollars.  J.B. also is juggling balls left and right to keep his business afloat and push for the success of the “Million Dollar Arm” program.

(left to right) Allyn Rachel as Theresa, Aasif Mandvi as Ash, Lake Bell as Brenda, Jon Hamm as JB Bernsetin, Bill Paxton as Coach House and Alan Arkin as Ray, photo by Ron Phillips ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(left to right) Allyn Rachel as Theresa, Aasif Mandvi as Ash, Lake Bell as Brenda, Jon Hamm as JB Bernsetin, Bill Paxton as Coach House and Alan Arkin as Ray, photo by Ron Phillips ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(left to right, standing) Amit (Pitobash), Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) create a little India in the backyard to say thank you to JB Bernstein and Brenda (Jon Hamm, Lake Bell). Photo by Ron Phillips ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

(left to right, standing) Amit (Pitobash), Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) create a little India in the backyard to say thank you to JB Bernstein and Brenda (Jon Hamm, Lake Bell). Photo by Ron Phillips ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

Two of my favorite aspects of MILLION DOLLAR ARM are the scenes in India and the music.  The story in India moves through many cities, giving viewers a peek into the grandeur of India’s vistas, especially the Taj Mahal, but also of the many different types of landscapes.  The acting is first rate, especially Alan Arkin as Ray, but a minor player really caught my attention.  Rinku Singh’s mother is played by Lata Shukla and her few minutes on the screen were impressive.  The worry and anxiety of a mother whose son is going off with strangers to a strange land were expressed perfectly in a very powerful scene.

Jon Hamm stars as sports agent JB Bernstein in Walt Disney Pictures' "Million Dollar Arm." Photo by Ishika Mohan  ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Jon Hamm stars as sports agent JB Bernstein in Walt Disney Pictures’ “Million Dollar Arm.” Photo by Ishika Mohan ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

MILLION DOLLAR ARM surprised me with how well it was done and how much I enjoyed it.  It’s a great family film or even date night film.  Baseball fans of just about any age will love it, though very young children probably won’t enjoy it as much as tweens, teens and adults.  For more family movie news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.