Film Review by Jon E Clist
Million Dollar Arm
In a last ditch effort to save his career as a sports agent, JB Bernstein (Hamm) concocts a scheme to find baseball’s next great pitching ace. Hoping to find a young cricket pitcher he can turn into a major league baseball star, JB travels to India to produce a reality show competition called “Million Dollar Arm.” With the help of a cantankerous but eagle-eyed retired baseball scout (Arkin) he discovers Dinesh (Mittal) and Rinku (Sharma), two 18 year old boys who have no idea about playing baseball, yet have a knack for throwing a fastball. Hoping to sign them to major league contracts and make a quick buck, JB brings the boys’ home to America to train. While the Americans are definitely out of their element in India — the boys, who have never left their rural villages — are equally challenged when they come to the States. As the boys learn the finer points of baseball — JB, with the help of his charming friend Brenda (Bell) — learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.
Disney has always brought wonderful true stories to our screens over the decades. I can remember sitting round the television with my family as a kid on many a Sunday evening watching these stories of hope, life and love. There were sad films like Old Yellow and fun films like The Love Bug. However, they were films that the family could enjoy together. They were stories that had a moral and for the most part clean and family oriented. So there is this level of trust factor that goes alongside a Disney film. Here comes a film that fits in with that feel. In fact to be honest I even wondered if it would be a film that as an adult I would enjoy being that it was coming from the mouse house. I’ll let you know what I thought later on.
A few things I found out about the production of this film certainly puts the project into perspective. Filming began in Mumbai, the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashta, the most populous city in India and with approximately 20.5 million residents. It is the fourth most populated city in the world. The company travelled progressively inland, to Lucknow, the capital city of the state of Uttar Pradesh, where they decamped for several days at Lucknow University, to film the scenes in which Rinku and Dinesh win “The Million Dollar Arm” competition. They ended their stay in Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. The filmmakers had no choice but to shoot in the spring, the country’s hottest season, due to a need to avoid the summer monsoons. During filming, daily temperatures reached approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit (around 49 degrees Celsius) and hit those triple digits by mid-morning. So it was no simple task to realistically recreate this story.
I guess they could have easily enough found other locations or filmed in a studio and recreated the feel, of course how do you really recreate the feel of India without going there? Instead they actually spent a lot of effort really to full make it work. Of course it wasn’t just the locations that needed to be worked on. Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mital, who play Rinku and Dinesh, respectively, had to learn to play baseball. Baseball experts put Sharma and Mittal on an accelerated training program, both on and off the field. When shooting wrapped each day, Sharma and Mittal hit the gym for a couple hours and drank special protein drinks throughout to keep their energy and weight up. It is interesting to note that one of their very first pitching coaches was the real Dinesh Patel – the production enlisted him to tutor Sharma and Mittal in all things baseball even before production landed in India. The work that these actors have put into this story definitely pays off in the final product.
Then of course you have the story of a man who has lived his life in luxury when compared to the world he searches amongst. This is a story that Jon Hamm fully inhabits. We have seen him as the cocky over confident characters in shows like Mad Men and yet here we see the transition from that sort of person to one of real humility and love. He starts out thinking that he is the one to educate two Indian boys about life and the world and yet they teach him of much greater things such as family and honour.
Now all this kind of stuff can get a little cheesy at times however it is a Disney film and you have to expect that feel about it.
A good old yarn that is both compelling and entertaining. It is good to see the change that can happen in a man when he sees something that is greater than himself.
Releases: 19th June 2014
Rating: PG - Contains course language
Duration: 124 minutes
Starring: Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal and Lake Bell
Director: Craig Gillespie (Fright Night, Mars and The Real Girl)
The real-life JB Bernstein has represented such prominent sports icons as Barry Bonds, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Wayne Gretzky.
JB Bernstein achieved a Ph.D in physics and is pursuing a second Ph.D.
JB Bernstein continues to produce “The Million Dollar Arm” competition in India.
JB Bernstein married Brenda, portrayed in the movie by Lake Bell. They live in Las Vegas with their daughter