Million Dollar Arm: Bringing Bollywood to Hollywood
In today's entertainment, it seems all that can be found is death, sex and cynicism. Disney's Million Dollar Arm provides a refreshing change of pace, reminding us that life is still full of wonder and joy. I'm sure you're thinking that sounded pretty cheesy, but that's my point. It's sad how our image of reality is portrayed on screen today for the most part. Million Dollar Arm is a perfect example of how Disney has remained true to its image, and why the positive messages they spread are so vital to our culture.
The story has the framework of most Disney stories we've seen before, but that didn't make it any less entertaining. Although it may be predictable, I found that I embraced its presages. Meet JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm), a man who has lost his way in the money-grubbing business that is the sports industry. JB, however, is struggling to keep his business afloat, and thus is forced into thinking outside of the box. After flipping back and forth between Susan Boyle and a cricket match, he seems to have found the answer to his problems. He travels to India where he holds the Million Dollar Arm contest to find two boys to train as the MLB's next great star pitchers. These boys are found, and brought to America to pursue their training. Add in a love story and a man who finds enlightenment, and we have all the ingredients of a classic Disney tale.
In the summer of 2012, I actually had the opportunity to live and work in India for a month. I stayed in Mumbai, where I interned at a television show in Bollywood. I still vividly remember the numerous scents, both intoxicating and horrendous. I witnessed poverty in the slums and glamour (what little there may have been of it) in some clubs. Mostly, though, I recall that India is an entirely different world than the one we westerners know. I mention all this simply to say how much I appreciate the way Disney portrays India in the film. Yes, it is a smelly, dirty world of chaos. Yes, cows walk alongside cars while people ride with goats on the back of vespas. Yes, it is overwhelmingly different from any place most of us know. However, just because it's different, doesn't mean it's wrong. India is also a place of exceptional beauty, history and culture spanning thousands of years. I think Disney includes all of the above: the good and the bad.
Thankfully, I can report that the film doesn't contain any poor performances. However, I must confess, no one blew me away. Jon Hamm performed his most Jon Hammiest role of perpetual bachelor. Lake Bell, who portrays Hamm's love interest plays her fun-loving tomboy self, and is great. I appreciate the sense she has, and that she never becomes the nagging girlfriend; she stands as his voice of reason. Both Suraj Sharma who plays Rinku and Madhur Mittal who plays Dinesh are completely adorable as the out of place, but welcome, foreigners. You might recognize Sharma from the 2012 Life of Pi film, and Mittal from 2008's Slumdog Millionaire. Both films were nominated for best film Oscars, Slumdog Millionaire winning in 2009. The only other performance of note is Pitobash, who plays the completely endearing Amit. He adds that Disney quality of humor and wholesomeness not found in many other types of films.
As far as problems with the film, I don't really have many. Other than a predictable ending and some cheesiness, I feel it is a solid film. And I'd much rather see some cheesiness than the constant dark, deplorable depression found in much of our entertainment.
The fact that the story remains light makes it the perfect film to see with the family. Not only is it an entertaining movie, but one with significant messages. It exposes a culture not known to many people, presenting it in a positive light. The idea that success does not come without sacrifice and dedication is an integral aspect of the story, as well as the notion that money should not be an end all goal. As I mentioned, these are all classic elements of Disney's typical storytelling. These themes can be found in just about all of their films, but that doesn't mean you should think that you've seen it all before.
Disney absolutely hit a home run with this film. Too cheesy? Yeah, but that's okay. From start to finish, I deeply cared about the characters and each of their stories. Through beautiful construction, an important and true story is told. If you ever get the chance to go to India, do not pass it up. It may be different, and the unknown may be scary, but nothing safe is worth the drive. Take chances, make mistakes, and do not forget to live. Who knows? You just might find yourself pitching in the MLB ten months after picking up your first baseball...
Opened in the US: May 16, 2014
Run Time 2:03
- Million Dollar Arm (2014) - Fandango
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Million Dollar Arm IMDB
- Million Dollar Arm (2014) - IMDb
Directed by Craig Gillespie. With Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin, Suraj Sharma. A sports agent stages an unconventional recruitment strategy to get talented Indian cricket players to play Major League Baseball.