By JH staff, Special for USDR
Mixed in with the early season’s action and superhero movies is one gem of a summer release.
“Million Dollar Arm” may actually turn out to be Disney’s feel-good film of the year. Distinguished from other sports oriented movies, this film not only combines elements of comedy, drama, and romance, it also weaves in some compelling time-honored themes.
Although it has been somewhat eclipsed by the box-office beast “Godzilla” and has garnered some mixed reviews from mainstream critics for its so-called predictability and sentimentality, there are some important life lessons that are intertwined in the plot line.
“Million Dollar Arm” includes a character that is a high-powered businessman, who is initially motivated by money but goes through a transformation that is prompted by the love of a newfound family.
The film makes the case that some risks are worth taking despite seemingly impossible odds, and it additionally delves into some of the attributes of the human spirit that light the path to success, including the qualities of creativity, perseverance, and integrity.
The screenplay is based on a true story, one in which those who have allowed cynicism to take root may find hard to believe. Rinku Singh was a humble farm boy who grew up in obscurity in the northern region of India. Singh was a javelin thrower who had never played baseball. In 2008 he won a competitive reality show called “Million Dollar Arm.” His pitch of a baseball traveling at the speed of 87 miles per hour is what landed him the trophy.
Singh and his friend, a fellow javelin thrower named Dinesh Kumar Patel, traveled to the U.S. to seek a tryout for a major league baseball team. The odds of success were stacked against the two athletes, but they were both ultimately signed to the Pittsburg Pirates, shocking all who had tracked the story. Both Singh and Patel suited up for the Pittsburgh baseball organization in 2009.
The movie recounts the story of how sports agent J.B. Bernstein came to seek out the two individuals and help each of them to achieve the impossible.
Bernstein, played by “Mad Men” TV star Jon Hamm, is a sports agent running a small struggling agency that is desperately seeking new business prospects. While watching a cricket match on television, Hamm’s character has a flash of inspiration, i.e., to find potential baseball pitchers among the billions of cricket players in India. Through use of a talent contest, he believes he will be able to find some young athletes, bring them to America, train them to become major league pitchers, and eventually represent them through his Seven Figures Management agency.
After journeying to India, Hamm’s character creates a reality show called “Million Dollar Arm.” He and veteran baseball scout Ray Poitevint, played by Alan Arkin, discover two javelin throwers who can definitely pitch, Rinku, played by “Life of Pi”’s Suraj Sharma, and Dinesh, played by “Slumdog Millionaire”’s Madhur Mittal.
Arkin’s character displays his veteran standing as a baseball scout as he uses his ability to determine the speed of a baseball pitch by listening to the sound of the ball when it hits the catcher’s mitt.
Hamm’s character brings the two young men to California to teach them more about American culture and about the game of baseball. He gets some expert assistance from college coach Tom House, played by Bill Paxton.
Brenda, portrayed by Lake Bell, is a medical student who rents Hamm’s character’s guest house. Bell’s character is the budding romantic interest for the lothario sports agent. She is the conscience of the story, confronting Hamm’s character on the responsibilities he has with respect to the young baseball prospects.
The two young men, who find themselves in the opulent culture of the West Coast, come from impoverished villages, and as would be expected they experience homesickness and a feeling of being out of place. They eventually find themselves in need of someone to guide them, inspire them, and believe in them.
Initially, the two do not find what they are looking for, particularly not in the self-absorbed sports agent. It is the manner in which Hamm’s character ultimately grows into his destiny that is at the heart of “Million Dollar Arm.” In due time, the sports agent is able to discover the depth and meaning that was previously missing from his life.
It is likely that the time-honored themes are what have caused some of the mainstream critics to react negatively. Nonetheless, “Million Dollar Arm” is a well-crafted classic Disney family film, which is replete with life lessons that are quietly conveyed by Hamm’s character’s graceful metamorphosis and the transcendent power of belief in self and others.
Moviegoers of all ages will find themselves enjoying this PG film as hearts are warmed and smiles are induced with ease.
The real-life Bernstein said that the Rinku and Dinesh story is simply the “most amazing story in the history of sports.”
In the amazing story of life, it’s nice to see idealism get up to bat.