Movie Curve Ball – a review of Disney’s “Million Dollar Arm”
- Runtime: 124 minutes
- Rating: Rated PG for mild language and some suggestive content
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Based on a true story, sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) finds that business has changed and things aren’t going well for his career. In a last ditch effort to save his livelihood he concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next great pitching ace. Hoping to find a young cricket pitcher he can turn into a major league baseball star, JB travels to India to produce a reality show competition called “The Million Dollar Arm.”
With the help of cantankerous but eagle-eyed retired baseball scout Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin), he discovers Dinesh (played by Madhur Mittal from “Slumdog Millionaire”) and Rinku (played by Suraj Sharma from “Life of Pi”), two 18-year-old boys who have no idea about playing baseball, yet have a knack for throwing a fastball. Hoping to sign them to major league contracts and make a quick buck, JB brings the boys home to America to train.
While the Americans are definitely out of their element in India, the boys, who have never left their rural villages, are equally challenged when they come to the States. As the boys learn the finer points of baseball, JB, with the help of his charming friend Brenda (Lake Bell), learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.
You, like I, would think ‘Million Dollar Arm’ was just another sports movie, where the underdog faces an opposing force that seems impossible to beat, but ends up winning anyways. To tell you plainly, it’s not. Instead, this movie throws us for a “curve ball” of sorts and focuses on a lot more and uses baseball to discuss what the movie’s story is really all about.
JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm), a sports agent whose career is driving towards the edge of a cliff, steers toward drastic tactics leading him to the country of India to begin a search for the ‘Million Dollar Arm’: a competition where people from all over the country compete against each other based on who can throw the fastest pitches. From this, JB finds two talented kids named Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and flies them over to America to train them in hopes of becoming the next Major League Baseball superstars.
One of the great aspects that I loved from this movie was its family-over-business theme. JB Bernstein was desperate in finding big shot athletes to the point of producing his own. This was the main reason he erected Million Dollar Arm to begin with. But as the story progresses, he struggles with an internal conflict between the contract and the player during the time he spends with Rinku and Dinesh. JB realizes that he is doing something bigger than merely signing a deal, but sees the true revelation of his actions: that he is giving these boys a shot of becoming someone more important than their predetermined lives.
Those deep themes were just one of many that “Million Dollar Arm” had and it all blended smoothly. Nowadays, movies’ messages are jumbled around, either adding small themes to its main message or playing through unnecessary monologues to add a “dramatic” mood. But this movie sticks to its central themes all the way, pounding it into the viewers’ heads whether the scene is significant or short. Absolutely no drag whatsoever, every second is dedicated to propelling the story forward.
Speaking of the story, the magic of this film was that the story (despite how impossible it was) was the fact that it was…fact! It all actually happened from JB’s and the Indian baseball players he found and their trials once they came to America. Director Craig Gillespie says Tom McCarthy (screenwriter) “took all the quirks and characteristics of the real people and worked them into the screenplay”. He then goes on saying that his goal was to “pack in as much of the real story as possible” and that he really wanted to “capture the essence of JB’s adventure”. With that said, it shows how authentic and genuine the story itself really is and how relatable it can be to a real-life audience.
When the credits started rolling and the lights turned back on in the theater, I remember Jordie and I meeting eyes and simultaneously smiling at each other for a good 30 seconds. At that moment, we automatically knew we were thinking the same thing: that this was a GREAT a movie. I believe (and hope) that this movie will make it big because of its real life inspirations and real-life applications. I would have to say that the morals and messages this Disney film expresses are something movies today seem to have forgotten over time and I feel that this movie is an ultimate reminder of that. Truly a movie worth spending your money on.
Three strikes of awesome.
This review was written by Lance Cruzado, Walt Disney Studios writer for DisneyExaminer.com. All reviews are personal opinions and may not reflect the attitudes of other writers for DisneyExaminer.com unless stated otherwise.
These films have been screened prior to the release date for review purposes and therefore are viewed without charge by The Walt Disney Studios.