<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Craig Gillespie. Starring Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Bill Paxton, Madhur Mittal, Suraj Sharma, Alan Arkin, Lake Bell, Pitobash, Darshan Jariwala
When this film first came out in theatres I thought it was about cricket and didn’t end up watching it. How surprised I was when I got the DVD to review from Sony DADC. And pleasantly so.
Million Dollar Arm is based on a true story about JB Bernstein (played by Jon Hamm in the film), who was a successful sports agent but then started his own company that didn’t do too well. Until he stumbled upon the idea of having a competition – called Million Dollar Arm – in India to recruit young boys who love cricket to pitch for baseball games in America and eventually join an American league baseball team. This would, according to his logic, create a huge market for American baseball in India, the land of billions.
Set in two parts, Million Dollar Arm’s first half focuses on Bernstein’s trek to India on a mission to find two boys who can pitch – or bowl – at high speeds. Without being too patronising or derogatory, the film nicely shows us the culture shock that India is for an American and how Indian families are so much more different from their US counterparts.
After he finds Rinku (Life Of Pi’s Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal from Slumdog Millionaire) Bernstein takes them to America to train for baseball try-outs in a hurry with a renowned coach (played by Bill Paxton). Million Dollar Arm shows us the huge change that these small town Indian boys have to endure but it also shows us the change Bernstein goes through from being money-minded and uncaring to being more personable and caring to his young charges. He also develops feelings for his lady tenant Brenda (Lake Bell) who turns out to be more than just a romantic interest in the movie, which is quite nice.
The usual sports practise montages and triumphs as well as failures, tantrums and joy are depicted but Million Dollar Arm never leads up to that clichéd final sporting encounter. There’s no big baseball game they have to win at the end. It’s all about chances and second chances to just take that all important one step towards a dream. It’s about transformations and learning.
Mad Men’s Jon Hamm is suitably complicated and charming to be engaging and Lake Bell as Brenda is not only tantalising she’s a strong female role model for the fish-out-of-water duo asked to learn a totally alien sport in less than a year.
Suraj Sharma is the more comfortable actor (with his English as well) of the two Indian boys portraying the real life boys who went on to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. But Madhur Mittal manages to convey plenty of emotion even in his silence. And Alan Arkin is a sheer delight as always as the ageing sports scout entrusted to aid Bernstein in his quest. A surprise nugget is Pitobash Tripathy as Amit, the Indian Man Friday who wants to become a baseball coach.
Million Dollar Arm doesn’t have any surprises but simply portrays a real life story honestly and that is just enough to make the film endearing and inspirational.
There is only one extra on this DVD.
In this feature we see the Indian boys Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal in training for their parts in the film. They talk about how they learnt to bowl and their training regimen to get into shape. Their pitching coach and gym trainer are featured as well as they work out in a hotel gym.
The camera work is a tad amateurish but gets the point across.
There are two Sneak Peeks on the DVD: one is for the film Maleficent and the other for Planes 2: Fire & Rescue.
DVD quality is excellent and there are English subtitles.
DVD Courtesy Sony DADC