Jon Hamm as J. B. Bernstein
Madhur Mittal as Dinesh Patel
Suraj Sharma as Rinku Singh
Lake Bell as Brenda Fenwick
Aasif Mandvi as Ash Vasudevan
Alan Arkin as Ray Poitevint
Bill Paxton as Tom House
In theaters May 16
4 out of 5
In 2008, sports agent J. B. Bernstein’s firm, Seven Figures Management, was at a low peak. Their client list was lackluster and the firm needed big, new business to keep their doors open. J. B. needed to do something, anything, to keep from going under. He had to find a hot new talent to sign. He got an idea for finding and cultivating a young athlete to bring attention to his firm to increase his business. He was going to find the next pitching sensation with a goal of getting the athlete signed to a major league baseball club. But where was this sensation going to come from? India. There had never been a major league baseball player from India. Most Indians are cricket fans. Cricket and American baseball are completely different games, but J. B. had a plan. He conceived an idea of a reality competition to find the next great pitcher. The top contenders of the competition would come to America to compete in the finals for a chance to win one million dollars. Additionally, the winner received formal training in the United States with the possibility of being selected as a pitcher for a Major League Baseball team. Two young men rose to the top and made it to the finals. Their road to success had a few bumps along the way, but through training, patience, and a few personal discoveries, they made it to become the only Indian nationals ever to be signed by a major league baseball team.
Million Dollar Arm has everything you would expect in an “underdog” sports story: hope, guts, courage, faith, triumph. J. B. is going way out on a limb praying that his idea will work. It has to or his dream of holding his firm together falls apart. Not to mention his life. Jon Hamm from Mad Men is putting on his best Don Draper here as he tries to sell his concept to the powers that be. Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel are the two Indian youths who had never picked up a baseball before. Or cricket ball either. They were not trained in either sport so that made their training all the more difficult. These two boys had never been out of their village, let alone out of their country, so there was also a little culture shock as they began to adapt to their American surroundings. The boys had possible dreams of what the future could be like for themselves and their families if they were successful. They wanted to do well to make their families and their country proud. And they do. Ten months to the day that they picked up a baseball they were signed to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
If you like sports movies then Million Dollar Arm is a good bet. Jon Hamm is joined in the cast by The Daily Show‘s Aasif Mandvi as J. B.’s business partner Ash; the irrepressible Lake Bell (In A World, Children’s Hospital) as Brenda; Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) as Rinku Sing, Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) as Dinesh Patel. Veteran actors Bill Paxton and Alan Arkin give great performances, especially Arkin as a no-nonsense sports scout with a very unorthodox approach. Yes, it is a sports move, but there is more going on. J. B. and the boys are on a learning curve here with life lessons and it is interesting to see the journey. I think it’s worth seeing.
P.S. Stay for the credits because there is footage and photos of the actual Rinku and Dinesh throughout their process.
Check out the trailer for “MILLION DOLLAR ARM” below: