A Wholesome, Feel-Good “Million Dollar Arm”
By Skip Sheffield
“Million Dollar Arm” is a rather fantastic feel-good, wholesome sports movie that is actually based in fact.
In 2008 a sports agent named J.B. Bernstein went to India in search of athletes who might have the million-dollar pitching arm of the title.
The movie, directed by Craig Gillespie (“Fright Night”) and written by Thomas McCarthy (“Up”) stars Jon Hamm as the Bernstein character, known as JB.
Hamm is best-known as Don Draper in the hit TV series “Mad Men.” The always-reliable Alan Arkin plays old-time baseball scout Ray Poitevint.
The shallow, materialistic JB is on the spot because he has lost a star player because to a rival agency because he could not afford a million-dollar bonus the player is offered. In truth JB is near bankruptcy and desperate.
That’s when he hatches the seemingly wacky plan to go to India and hold open tryouts for anyone who might be good at baseball. He brings along his business partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) and sleepy Ray, who is so good at judging a baseball’s speed he can determine it with his eyes closed.
Cricket is the national sport of India, but Ray detects native pitching ability in Rinku (Suraj Sharma of “Slumdog Millionaire”) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal of “Life of Pi”).
So begins a fish-out-of-water, clash-of-cultures underdog tale of two young Indian men plucked from poverty in their native country and plopped into JB’s posh bachelor pad in Los Angeles. The boys are under an impossible deadline to get good enough, training at USC with their doubtful coach (Bill Paxton), to impress major league coaches.
Lake Bell plays Brenda JB’s smart, pretty med school tenant and potential love interest. It’s one of those scenarios where you know selfish JB will fall for the virtuous Brenda and be the better man for it.
There are no surprises in “Million Dollar Arm,” and as we said, it is based on the true story of Rinku Singh and Dinetel, who are now professional baseball players in the USA. Stick around to the very end of this two-hour Walt Disney film and you will see the real-life boys and the man who discovered them.