So what hasn’t been done in sports films? The genre has tapped everything from outfield angels to trained chimpanzees and dogs, so what’s left? What about a true story of cricket pitchers from India brought to America to learn baseball while fish-out-of-water wackiness ensues? And there you have Million Dollar Arm, Disney’s lame attempt to retry on their decades old Cool Runnings formula.
Million Dollar Arm isn’t a bad movie by any means; kind of like grass growing isn’t necessarily bad for your lawn (or in this case, your baseball field) – until it gets too long. The film is slow, completely predictable and is in desperate need of a cut (down from its 124 minute running time.) The story has nothing to say about baseball or sports, and it doesn’t really deliver on its teamwork and family motif either.
In this “real-life” story, a struggling sports agent, J. B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm), comes up with a Barnum & Bailey style gimmick in order to garner a moneymaking client or two. So he heads to (according to the movie) the last location on Earth that is untapped of its athletic resources – India.
With a reality show competition that scours the country looking for pitching talent, the film begins with J.B. being the out-of-place character; but after he finds his pitchers, Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma from Life of Pi) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal), the story transitions into the Indian kids being the waterless fish (complete with age-old elevator newbie hijinks.)
Will Rinku & Dinesh make it into the big leagues? If you are a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, then I guess you probably already know the answer to that question. Nevertheless, the film still milks the “suspense” as the two athletes bomb their first opportunity, but then, of course, come back in the end to make good on their promise to their families and to J.B. (That is after the agent decides to just let them have fun.)
If this all sounds like Disney has hit a big, easy can of corn, you’re right – you won’t even need a glove for this one. The only real amusement the film has to offer is Hindi actor, Pitobash Tripathy, who delivers a great performance and has some nice moments playing J.B.’s driver and translator, Amit (although you might feel a little bigoted by laughing at his character’s accent and antics.)
The film also stars Lake Bell as Brenda, J.B.’s tenant and love interest; Alan Arkin as Ray Poitevint, the grumpy pitching scout; The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi as J.B.’s business partner, and Bill Paxton as Tom House, the pitching instructor. The cast is fine all around and the problems with this film are not their fault. Instead, blame the lackluster script by Thomas McCarthy (Up) and direction by Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl.)
Million Dollar Arm is the equivalent of finding a common card in your trading card pack, and I would recommend spending your money at a real baseball game rather than this ultra-average sports film. Grade: 4.5/10
Photos © 2014 Disney Enterprises Inc.