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Not only is “Million Dollar Arm” a Disney film, but it’s also based on a true story. In other words, cue the tears, heartbreak and your inevitable restoration of faith in humanity. It’s also a baseball movie, if you’re into that sort of thing.
The film follows Jon Hamm as J.B., a wealthy sports agent who recently decided to start his own company. Once his company starts failing, J.B. and his comedic relief of an assistant, Aash (Aasif Mandvi) hatch a plan to make baseball pitchers out of Indian cricket players.
They create the Million Dollar Arm competition and travel throughout India to find boys who can pitch with a speed of over 80 mph. This search takes up a good half of the film, showing a solid portion of India. Surprisingly, the director chooses to focus on the slums rather than romanticizing India with colorful shots of the Taj Mahal, a la most American-directed Indian films.
Eventually J.B. finds his winners: Rinku, played by “Life of Pi’s” Suraj Sharma, and Dinesh, played by “Slumdog Millionaire’s” Madhur Mittal. Originally from the slums, the boys find it hard adjusting to Los Angeles while living with J.B., whose disgruntled playboy businessman persona falls short of being a father figure.
As Rinku and Dinesh grow homesick while J.B. distances himself, the boys’ baseball skills suffer. Out of all character developments, J.B. goes through the most notable transformation as he has to decide what’s important in life in time to get the boys ready for major league tryouts.
After watching “Million Dollar Arm,” it is safe to say Sharma and Mittal are not one-hit-wonders. Both actors demonstrate a range in their performance, playing disparate characters than their previous Oscar recognized films. Their fantastic acting was by far the most enjoyable part of the film.
It is hard to say if Hamm was really the right choice to play J.B. He does a great job of playing the uptight rich womanizer, reminiscent of his brief role in “Bridesmaids,” but suffered through the heartfelt moments, causing the viewer to doubt his character development.
While “Million Dollar Arm” probably won’t be up there with other successes such as “The Blind Side” or “Captain Phillips,” Disney manages to pull you in, making you really care about the characters. And if your tears weren’t flowing yet, make sure to catch the real footage of Rinku and Dinesh during the credits — it makes the average two-hour film worth the watch.
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