Coming to theatres this Friday from director Craig Gillespie and Disney is the based on a true story of a MILLION DOLLAR ARM.
This film tells the story of J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm), a sports agent in business with Ash (Aasif Mandvi). Losing a lot of their players to retirement, J.B. is looking for the next big thing to save his business. While watching cricket he is inspired to go looking for talent where no one has looked before – India.
Once in India, J.B. has the sort of services of Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin) to help scout for the Million Dollar Arm. Going from village to village holding try outs, the two find more misses than hits. That is until they meet Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), two young men who see the fliers and dare to dream.
Chosen to go to American, J.B. finds Coach Tom House (Bill Paxton) to train the boys and has one year to teach the boys everything they need to know about pitching baseball. What J.B. forgets is that these boys need support and when they don’t get it from him, Rinku and Dinesh befriend Brenda (Lake Bell). They all know, especially J.B. that they are being watched by Chang (Tzi Ma) who can call off everything!
Sometimes, daring to dream means letting everything else go and remembering why we dream in the first place.
FINAL WORD: Hamm as Bernstein is a very self centered man whose only goal is to sign big names and keep his lifestyle. The two young men eventually change that for him but not without some rough patches. Hamm takes the role to the limits and when he starts to have a change of heart, he portrays strongly that as well. A little corny at times? Yes. Predictable? Yes, but it works.
Arkin as Ray is a crotchety elderly man who knows exactly what he’s doing – even if no one else can quite figure it out. I love when Arkin reels me in believing every word that comes out of his mouth! Paxton as Coach House gets to show off his baseball knowledge playing the role of a miracle worker.
Mandvi as Ash is totally the comic relief when tension builds. Bell as Brenda is the friendly contact Rinku and Dinesh need, other than it is a good performance. Ma as Chang is watching everyone to make sure the money he doles out will bring him huge profits.
The winners here for me are the young men. Mittal as Dinesh portrays such a humble young man who only wants to make life for his family in India better. Mittal does such an amazing job portraying these traits it would be difficult not to like him or see his future acting potential. He actually played the older Salim in the 2008 film SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.
Sharma as Rinku is equally endearing playing a young man who misses home and a mother who also wants her boy to succeed. Sharma plays this role with tension yet playful, humorous and none of this surprises me. One of my favorite films of the last few years is LIFE OF PI and it is truly because of Sharma’s performance. In this film he takes the role and gives it a quality that makes the story very successful.
Other cast include: Al Sapienza as Pete, Bar Paly as Lisette, Allyn Rachel as Theresa, Gregory Alan Williams as Doug, Gabriela Lopez as Nicole, Mike Pniewski as Walter and Brett Zimmerman as Mark.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give MILLION DOLLAR ARM three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. Let’s get it out of the way now that yes it has the feel of JERRY MCGUIRE and SLUM DOG MILLIONAIRE but that doesn’t in any way take from the story itself.
It is a charming story of two young men who were given the chance to be what they always wanted to be, young men who make their families proud. Eager to please but never forgetting who they were is the highlight of the film for me. Of course, as with Disney films, there are lessons of love, family, commitment and being an underdog that will reach audiences. It’s another way to look at loving America’s favorite pastime.
In the end – sometimes to win you have to change the game.