There are good sports movies, and then there are great sports movies, but Million Dollar Arm, despite the feel good movie vibes you feel, falls somewhere in between the two. Craig Gillespie’s latest directorial effort plays it safe without taking any risks whatsoever, and uses the typical sports film formula to create a film we have all seen before. The potential was there, and it certainly wasn’t wasted. It’s just that it throws more fastballs than curveballs. Hit the jump for the full review.
As with almost any based on actual events film, the audience will know how the movie will end. It’s just how it goes. Standard procedure so to speak. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it is a system that has worked, but not for every film. However for Million Dollar Arm, you can’t help but feel good at the end, but honestly rooting for everyone to loose it all, feels wrong.
Jon Hamm plays JB Bernstein, a sports agent with a failing firm, who has the idea of going to India and use a reality based talent show to find the latest and greatest pitching prospects. In somewhat of a culture shock, Hamm doesn’t realize just how different India is from Los Angeles. The traffic in India is even heavier than it is on the 405, the honking is on a consistent basis, and, of course, it is really hot. Despite the odds weighed against his favor, Bernstein finds the two players Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) who could turn his failing firm around. The strange mechanics of pitching. Blinded by dollar signs, Bernstein doesn’t realize that Dinesh and Rinku are homesick, not even luxuries of pizza delivery and cable TV, can stop them from feeling pressured into winning a competition for him, instead of having fun.
Is all that culture shock funny? Maybe. It all depends. Again, we have seen it all before, and seeing it again once in awhile is fine. But if it happens on a repeated basis, it does become a bit of a bore.
And yes, the comedic and dramatic elements will volley back and forth. But that’s what you get when you watch a family-friendly sports drama. We see that Bernstein realizes that he is a surrogate father to Dinesh and Rinku. We start to see that his single party rich life is coming to an end, and that the love of his life, Brenda (Lake Bell) was actually right in front of him. We see that the business clouded his judgement. And we see that Bernstein learns a much needed valuable lesson.
Million Dollar Arm is all about Bernstein, Dinesh, and Rinku. So if you feel that Brenda, Ash (Aasif Mandvi), and Ray (Alan Arkin) are being underutilized, then you are not alone. Though Dinesh and Rinku bring out the best in Bernstein, none of it would be possible without the other three supporting cast members. Hamm doesn’t deliver an inspired performance or one that remotely resembles Don Draper – at least effort-wise -, but this film is definitely on the lighter side and isn’t as edgy as the aforementioned roles. So it’s easy to see why Hamm appears a little more relaxed in this role as opposed to any other.
Thomas McCarthy‘s script doesn’t ask too much from the audience. But his script for Million Dollar Arm is the weakest and safest of all the scripts he has written. Considering his other stronger character-driven scripts like The Visitor, Win Win, and Up, him writing Million Dollar Arm the way he did comes as somewhat of a surprise. While the narrative doesn’t work as a whole, McCarthy still manages to make you crack more than a smile.
Million Dollar Arm wouldn’t be as compelling as it is if it just focused on Berstein and the business of baseball. And despite all of its flaws, underutlized characters, and formulaic story, the film is a definite crowd pleaser.