Sunday, May 18, 2014

Disney's Latest Sports Film Hits a Solid Double: Our Review of "Million Dollar Arm" (2014)

Directed By: Craig Gillespie (Fright Night remake) 

Starring: Jon Hamm, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash, Lake Bell, Aasif Mandvi

Rating: PG for mild language and some suggestive content

Run Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

Synopsis: J.B. Bernstein (Hamm) is an L.A. sports agent on the verge of seeing his company go out of business. One night while watching cricket he becomes inspired to created a TV competition show called "Million Dollar Arm" where he'll try to comb India for any talent he might be able to shape into baseball players worthy of a major league tryout. Discovering a pair of boys named Rinku (Sharma) and Dinesh (Mattel), J.B. brings them stateside where they experience their first taste away from home and try to fulfill their dreams of playing baseball.


Andrew: Hello readers! Look at that! We're back with our 2nd review of the weekend! We're hopefully gonna be able to see more movies and crank out more reviews as the weather warms up and our work schedules settle down a little bit, and what better way to kick off a two-review weekend than with a baseball movie?

Yesterday Sarah and I saw the new Disney film Million Dollar Arm, starring Jon Hamm, based on the true story of sports agent J.B. Bernstein and his creation of the Million Dollar Arm TV show/talent competition to find cricket players in India that could maybe have the raw talent to hone and one day become Major League Baseball players.

Sarah, this is a film that you've been looking forward to for a little bit now, so now that we've seen it what are your initial thoughts on it?

Sarah: It was so cute! I have been looking forward to this one for a little while. We like Jon Hamm in Mad Men but like to see him playing different characters away from Don Draper, cuz that guy's kind of a jerk. And let's be honest, J.B. Bernstein is kind of a jerk, too, but definitely one that grows in this movie.

What I loved about Million Dollar Arm, and most other Disney movies for that case, is that they are feasts for the eyes. This movie was visually stunning, and how could it not be?! Whenever you throw India into the mix, it's a feast for the senses. What did you think?

A: About how great the movie looked, or what did I think in general?

S: In general.

A: In general I enjoyed the movie. I did not love it, but I did like many aspects of it and found it pretty enjoyable. Like you I thought it looked amazing. I loved the softer, more colorful hues of the scenes in India contrasted with the stark, bright shots back in America. I thought they showed an interesting side of India where you saw both the countryside and the more populous cities. And then I thought they did a good job mirroring how Rinku, Dinesh and Amit must have felt once they got Stateside and everything was so different.

Outside of how the film looked, I liked the lead characters in Hamm's J.B. Bernstein, the two baseball players he brings back from India - Rinku Singh (Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Slumdog Millionaire's Madhur Mittal) - and their translator/J.B.'s assistant Amit (Bollywood star Pitobosh). 

And the supporting cast of Lake Bell's Brenda, the girl renting J.B.'s bungalo; Aasif Mandvi's Aash, J.B.'s agency partner; and Alan Arkin's Ray, the baseball scout Aash finds to accompany J.B. on his trip to India, are all very solid as well. Oh, and Bill Paxton as Tom House, the baseball coach at the University of Southern California that agrees to help coach Rinku and Dinesh, he was maybe my favorite supporting character. 

Nothing to complain about with the casting or the acting, but none of the American actors impressed me. Instead I was rather impressed with all three Indian actors.

S: I'm definitely going to agree with you there. The Indian actors in this movie were the heart and soul of it. They had this uncanny way of grabbing on to your heart strings and refusing to let go. They seemed to really grasp what these guys went through in real life, and I really appreciated that. 

But you're right, the American actors didn't seem to give much heart in this one. They were a little one note. They needed to be so much deeper, especially Hamm's character, and I really did not get that. There was supposed to be a character arc that happened with him and it was a little weak, in my opinion.

A: I mean, yes and no. J.B. is definitely supposed to go through this transformative arc where he goes from being a selfish sports agent to realizing that there's more to the business than just the bottom line, not unlike the one Tom Cruise's Jerry Maguire goes through in the first act of that film. And for most of this movie Hamm's J.B. really is a big jerk, except it's more in relapses than just a constant thing. And Hamm does well playing that character, because he's been doing it for a while now on Mad Men. I think it just took a while to get there.

I thought Paxton's House and Bell's Brenda were better in that their characters are constantly supportive of Rinku and Dinesh, and they need to be because J.B. certainly isn't the entire time. And they conveyed that kind of concern fairly well even if they weren't given a ton to work with. But they made it work.

More than anything though, yes, Sharma and Mittal as Rinku and Dinesh, respectively, were the heart and soul of this movie. Pitobosh's Amit can be tossed in their, too. While this movie is mainly about J.B.'s transition, the emotional impact of the movie is within the Indian trio - seeing where they come from, watching their transformation into baseball players, experiencing their experiences in America with them, but more importantly see in how they're relationship with J.B. affects them. This movie does a phenomenal job of making you feel sad/bad for them when things go poorly.

S: I think the main problem that I had with Hamm was that the transformation was so quick and overnight. It just seemed a little forced to me. And let's not forget that Alan Arkin is in this movie! I really wished that he had been a bigger part! His retired scout is a great character and I wish we had gotten to see more of it. 

But you're right, Sharma and Mittal are it. They rocked this movie. And I think we can take this movie for that, a heartwarming story about two boys who live the American dream. Definitely had that Disney feel to it and I liked that it was a good contrast to the action packed movies that are coming out these next few weekends. Considering it came out the same weekend as Godzilla, it was a pretty full theater. 

A: It's truly a Disney movie in that classic "feel-good" way that they have. It reminded me so much of another feel-good baseball movie Disney did in 2002 called The Rookie - starring Dennis Quiad as a 35-year-old teacher who gets a chance to be a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays - that I looked that movie up on IMDb and guess what? Turns out both movies are produced by the same guy! His name is Mark Ciardi and he's a former major league baseball player. Go figure.'s not fair to say that this was a cookie-cutter Disney movie, because it has such a fantastic true story and it's brought to life perfectly by all involved, but I will say I didn't love it. I enjoyed it very much and I'm glad we saw it this weekend, and if we happen to catch it on TV in the future I'm sure we'll stop and watch it, but when all is said and done this isn't one I'm going to be begging us to buy. Even if it is a baseball movie.

S: Yeah, it's not one for the collection but it was a cute one. A great feel-good film that I am so glad that we saw, despite the super annoying people that were in the theater with us. I am glad that we saw it in theaters because it really was a great contrast to Godzilla and was a great alternative for families. If you're going to see this one in theaters, catch a matinee viewing of it, otherwise wait until it's on Netflix. I'm going to give this one a 3/5

A: That's a great summarization, and exactly the score I was going to give it.

FINAL VERDICT: A good one to catch on a weekend matinee!

(Individual Scores - S: 3/5  A: 3/5)

Photo Courtesy: Latino Review

No comments:

Post a Comment