Million Dollar Arm (2014)


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Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood will ever make a film solely dedicated to the sport of cricket? From a marketing standpoint, it would be a bad move since Americans are pretty ignorant about cricket.

Even though America has a national cricket team!
Even though America has a national cricket team!

But also from a marketing standpoint, it would be a good move because the majority of the world knows and plays this sport. I feel what Hollywood would do is somewhat dive into a film that has the slightest relation to cricket and then make the film baseball-related. That brings us to Million Dollar Arm. Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm tells the story of the first Indians to play in the MLB. Is it any good? Let’s find out!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

As the film opens, we are introduced to the character of J.B. Bernstein, a sports agent who’s going through some rough patches in his career. Bernstein, played by Jon Hamm, hasn’t made a good deal in a long time which puts pressure on his co-workers, bosses, and his high standard of living.

"Can't break up with the big-screen TV with a billion channels, man...just can't!"
“Can’t break up with the big-screen TV with a billion channels, man…just can’t!”

One night, as he’s depressingly channel-surfing, he comes across Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent performance and a cricket match on TV. He then gets an idea that he tries to sell to an investor, Mr. Will Chang, played by Tzi Ma. The idea is that Bernstein will set up a competition in India to find two Indian cricket bowlers to take back to America and make them into baseball pitchers for the MLB. He feels that if this is successful, the MLB will automatically have a billion new fans which leads to a billion more profits. Mr. Chang reluctantly agrees to this and gives Bernstein one year to find these boys and train them to be pitchers.

Bernstein heads to India and has to get used to the different culture. As a normal American who likes things in an organized manner (and possessing little patience), Bernstein has a hard time dealing with the hustle and bustle, the crowds, and the concept of “bypassing the system” to get things done.

A fact of life we brown people are only too familiar with, sadly!
A fact of life we brown people are only too familiar with, sadly!

Nevertheless, he starts preparing for the competition and getting the news out. Bernstein meets a few characters including an American talent scout who has been sent to India to judge/watch the contest, Mr. Ray Poitevint, played by Alan Arkin,

"I'm still waiting for The Last Unicorn 2, you know!"
“I’m still waiting for The Last Unicorn 2, you know!”

and an Indian baseball enthusiast who volunteers to help with the contest named Amit Rohan, played by Pitobash Tripathy.

After "bypassing the system" so much, Bernstein is ecstatic to hear that someone wants to "volunteer".
After “bypassing the system” so much, Bernstein is ecstatic to hear that someone wants to “volunteer”.

Once the day of the tryouts arrives, Bernstein and the others discover that most of the contestants are not good enough for the MLB. That is, until they come across two boys who end up winning the competition, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, played by Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal, respectively.

"So which film appearance of yours are they exploiting?" "Slumdog Millionaire, you?" "Life of Pi. If Dev Patel wasn't busy with his Exotic Marigold Hotel film, he'd probably be here with us as well."
“So which film appearance of yours are they exploiting?”
Slumdog Millionaire, you?”
Life of Pi. If Dev Patel wasn’t busy with his Exotic Marigold Hotel film, he’d probably be here with us as well.”

Bernstein heads back to America with the boys and Amit (who serves as a translator between Bernstein and the boys) and almost instantly, things don’t go right: Bernstein discovers that the boys don’t actually play cricket and that they getting used to American culture and technology will prove to be a problem.

After accidentally causing trouble in a hotel, our three Indian friends move in with Bernstein at his bachelor home. Bernstein isn’t too happy about this and is just concerned with getting these boys trained ASAP. He doesn’t understand that the boys are far from home for the first time, that they need him to believe in them and spend time with them, etc. The only one who talks with the boys is Bernstein’s tenant who rents out the small house next to his, Brenda, played by Lake Bell. She empathizes with them and spends time talking with them.

Believe it or not, Eminem and Keith Urban music get conversations going.
Believe it or not, Eminem and Keith Urban music get conversations going.

After the boys interfere with another business deal of Bernstein’s causing him to be angry with them, Brenda talks to Bernstein and tells him that he needs to be a better person to these boys and care about them more. Bernstein sees the wisdom in this and tries to turn over a new leaf: he starts attending their training sessions, embracing the boys’ culture with them, watching movies with the boys, etc.

Who would have thought that Gary Cooper would appear in a Disney film?
Who would have thought that Gary Cooper would appear in a Disney film?

A few weeks later, it’s the big day when Rinku and Dinesh have to show their skills to Mr. Chang in front of an audience consisting of sportspeople. Rinku and Dinesh aren’t really ready yet, but they try their best and believe it or not, …, they don’t impress anyone.

"Oh, big shock!"
“Oh, come on!”

Yeah, it was impossible to train these boys who’ve never picked up a baseball in their life to pitch MLB-style in only a year. Mr. Chang congratulates Bernstein though on bringing the boys as far as they’ve gotten already, but still says that the boys aren’t ready to be MLB players yet.

Saddened by the loss, Bernstein realizes that he needs to give the boys one more chance and sets up another tryout at a baseball stadium with fewer people. This turns out to be more successful than the previous one and the boys are offered a contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The film ends with pictures of the real J.B. Bernstein, Rinku, Dinesh, Brenda, etc.

Our good friend, Obama, makes an appearance also.
Our good friend, Obama, makes an appearance also.

And that was Million Dollar Arm. I was talking with a friend of mine about this movie and I think he put the words to describe this movie best, “There’s nothing really to talk about”.

This movie is no awesome achievement in the field of movies, sports movies, Disney movies, etc. It has problems, but at the same time it’s not an awful “F”-rated film. It’s your average underdog sports film with an Indian twist to it. I (being a brown guy with Indian ancestry) always find it amusing when non-Indians try making films about/depicting Indians and their culture. It’s not done in a bad way, but it’s an amusing contrast to what we see usually from the Bollywood films that come out of the Indian film industry.

The plot of the film was just average at best. The acting was good, for the most part, with Jon Hamm, Suraj Sharma, and Maddhur Mittal giving really good performances. Everyone else (including actors Aasif Mandvi and Bill Paxton) is pretty much themselves or not that great to be worth talking about. Again, we come back to my friend’s statement.

"Oh, your friend knows everything, huh?!"
“Oh, your friend knows everything, huh?!”

The music was a nice change to listen to: hearing Indian music in an American film. It wasn’t the best of Indian music, in my opinion, but still a nice change. 

Summing up, this film is nothing special and you kinda have to make up your own mind about what you think of this film. And maybe someday, we will finally get that Hollywood cricket epic that we some of us have been waiting for!

(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)


So, the final score for this film is 22/35 = 62.86% (D-) !

The next review will be posted on June 1st.

8 thoughts on “Million Dollar Arm (2014)

  1. Football! They really should do a movie about Football. And I mean real Football, which is actually played with the feet and with an ball, and not with some sort of leather melon. I bet the whole world would watch that.

      1. I am still scratching my head about that one. But then, I am kind of curious what a Burton take on the pink elephants would look like

  2. I fell asleep while watching this. I like the cast and what they were trying to do but it just didn’t engage me.

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