Million Dollar ArmCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Walt Disney takes this remarkable true story and turns it into an uplifting baseball tale slapped with a sickly sweet overlay of Disney custard.
Written by Tom McCarthy and directed by Craig Gillespie, Million Dollar Arm is based on the true story of JB Bernstein’s journey to India in search of baseball superstars. Philanderer JB’s career is failing since starting his own operation with partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) who is too preoccupied with family commitments to provide much input. Deflated, JB mindlessly flicks the channels back and forth between Susan Boyle’s glory moment in Britain’s Got Talent and an Indian cricket match, sparking a banal “aha” moment. JB quickly conceives an idea for a reality television competition seeking out India’s best baseball players for the American market. He sells the proposal to a Chinese–American entrepreneur who allows him a year to round up and train his protégés.
Catapulted to India, JB begins his search with drowsy retired scout Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin). Stretching the corners of the land, they come across Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) who both show potential. Flying them back to USA, JB lands them with a coach (Bill Paxton) and gives him just six months to train them to league status.
A cross between Slumdog Millionaire and Jerry McGuire, this hybrid doesn’t quite hit the same mark: it has all the hallmarks of a good Disney film but lacks the grittiness of Jerry McGuire and the exotic charm of Slumdog Millionaire despite a catchy and inspiring track.
Barely touching on the barren lives of Rinky and Dinesh and the effect of a severe culture shock on them, the film misses out on emotional depth and character development. There are semi-touching moments when the boys contemplate the workings of an elevator, but generally, the themes are cliché and a little over-the-top. Although brave enough to touch on the boys hurt feelings when JB literally dumps them with the coach, disregarding them for sealing money-clinching deals, it is thinly veiled. Also typical is the casting of “Miss Brenda”, a student doctor living in the annex to JB’s coldly contemporary bachelor pad, who harnesses JB’s callous side, rapidly turning him into Mr Sensitive by the third Act.
A revealing look at the expanding global footprint of the American sports entertainment machine, this film without its true story background would be a run-of-the-mill and probably forgettable, feel-good movie. Nonetheless, there are some cracking one-liners and it is unquestionably a Hollywood spirit-lifter. The overarching message is that the impossible is possible if you just believe. While it’s not impossible to enjoy this Disney-sweet movie, you may just need to believe in it a little more.
Million Dollar Arm is released nationwide on 29th August 2014.
Watch the trailer for Million Dollar Arm here: