It’s almost not fair for me to review MILLION DOLLAR ARM. All my life I’ve loved baseball and I’ve been obsessed with India since I took several semesters of Indian History in college. I even remember these events playing out live 6 years ago on ESPN. Disney’s Million Dollar Arm follows struggling agent J. B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) who leads a publicity stunt across the billion-people plus nation of India in search of the next great untapped baseball talent pool (and honestly, the next great t-shirt and hat market). His idea, that in a nation crazy about cricket, they should be able to convert a few bowlers into pitchers and get them ready for a major league try-out, is ‘highly improbable’ but the fact that’s its true makes this not just a great film, but an inspiring one.

Director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) has put together an amazing cast. In addition to Hamm, Bill Paxton plays the former major-leaguer turned renegade coach set to teach these kids baseball, Alan Arkin plays the legendary scout who sleeps through most of the trip across India but can pinpoint the speed of a pitch by sound, and Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi plays Hamm’s business partner and the man who introduces him to cricket. Of course, the film would be nothing without the two ‘arms,’ played by Madhur Mittal (the brother from Slumdog Millionaire) and Suraj Sharma (Pi in Life of Pi). Every performance in the film is top notch but the kids steal the show. Where the come from, what they are thrown into, and what they do with it, it is really a lot to put them through in one film (and to put the audience through). By the end of the film, I found myself in tears as their Indian translator (another great performance, this one from Pitobash Tripathy) tells them that it will now be possible for children in India to dream of being baseball players because of what they are doing here.

It actually doesn’t matter whether they are successful or not. By the nature of the sport, simply making it to a major league try-out and throwing 90+ opens India up to scouts. However, both of these kids signed professional baseball contracts and one of them is still playing professionally. This is the real deal, and as inspiring as the actual events are, the movie can only be more inspiring. How many children in India will see this slick Hollywood film and see their heroes brought to the world? Disney exec Alan Horn says it’s the highest-testing film he’s ever had that includes the first Harry Potter film from his years at Warner Brothers. I’m not surprised, this is one of the best films I’ve seen in years – it’s money used right, the rare example that the studio can still turn out a beautifully shot, acted and told cinematic story, one that people will watch for years to come.

Add to the great story and performances, Million Dollar Arm features a truly wonderful score by A.R. Rahman, and fantastic music supervision/editing by Jon Mooney. I found myself excited every time the plot moved from city to city because it meant another great mini-montage set to music and lush cinematography from Gyula Pados. The film is funny, has heart, and delivers a one-two punch of fish-out-of-water stories (first an LA agent in India then Indian rural kids in LA). You don’t even need to know much about baseball to like this film – in fact, one of the ongoing jokes is that most of the people in the film don’t – certainly not the Indian athletes, who both hate cricket as well.

Million Dollar Arm opens today everywhere. Go see it. Seriously.

THE ACTUAL PLAYERS THE MOVIE IS BASED ON

Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, the two javelin throwers from Uttar Pradesh who signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates only 13 months after picking up a baseball for the first time——

Pitchers Dinesh Pateland Rinku Singh with  J.B. Bernstein (center)

Pitchers Dinesh Pateland Rinku Singh with Sports agent J.B. Bernstein (center)



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