Baseball films are not new in any sense of the word but taking an Indian take on it very much is. ��Million Dollar Arm�۪ is based on a true story and that very fact piqued the interest of critics long before the film�۪s release. Starring Jon Hamm of American TV series ��Mad Men�۪ fame, the film promised to be an uplifting sports story which would be following the routes of ��Slumdog Millionaire�۪ (2008) and ��Life of Pi�۪ (2012). So much so in fact that the film also stars Madhur Mittal of ��Slumdog Millionaire�۪ (2008) fame and Suraj Sharma who was the star of ��Life of Pi�۪ (2012). Another winning element was the soundtrack being composed by A R Rahman who had also done the soundtracks for the aforementioned films. The trailer made it clear that this would be a heart-warming story about Hamm�۪s journey to India to find the next sports star.
JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a smooth talking, self-centred, arrogant sports talent manager who is trying to make it on his own with his business partner but is finding it hard to land his next big sports star to manage. After losing his best lead, JB has the idea to convert a cricket bowler into a baseball player. He believes the mechanics are the same and heads to India to launch a competition to do just that under the name Million Dollar Arm. Accompanied by retired baseball coach Ray (Alan Arkin) and an Indian baseball fan Amit (Pitobash), JB travels the length and breadth of India getting average cricket playing boys to become the next big baseball star. After a lot of searching, JB discovers poor boys Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and brings them to America to train to become baseball players under the direction of Tom House (Bill Paxton).
This film does hold promise and each of the actors have the ability to deliver this storyline with compassion and finesse. The story is touching and you genuinely do cheer for the boys by the end of the film for reaching their goal. Mittal and Sharma are great as the young boys who come from rural India and have to find their way in completely different sunny Los Angeles. Their innocent humour and naivety make them endearing to the audience and their reactions in each scene match their characters perfectly. Hamm is great as JB Bernstein and does play the self-centred talent scout incredibly well with his shark like grin, trouble is that he is playing a role that he has played countless times before. The one thing that does make this film rather confusing is why the boys like Hamm�۪s character in the first place, after he tears them away from their families and exploits them for his own benefit without a care or consideration for their feelings. The boys are homesick in America and genuinely yearn for companionship from JB, but they are left to their own devices despite not being able to speak any English, until JB is down on his luck to pay them some attention. One character which has to gain a special mention is Arkin�۪s character Ray who spends much of the film asleep and knows the speed of the baseball without having to even open his eyes.
Directed by Craig Gillespie, the film is cast and put together well, you can almost forgive the flaws in the script but the relationship between JB and the boys should have been a core of the film, instead of it all being about JB and his priorities. Many of these east meets west films make a lot about the stark differences between India and America but this has been significantly toned down within the script. ��Million Dollar Arm�۪ makes it all about the relationships the characters forge, friendship and the need to belong wherever you are in the world. This is to the film�۪s credit as that territory of cultures being alien has long been discovered. The soundtrack of the film is reminiscent of ��Slumdog Millionaire�۪ and that is evident in every scene, rich sounds composed by musical maestro A R Rahman which are brilliant but slightly out of place in a baseball film once the characters leave India.
��Million Dollar Arm�۪ is a good film but not one that will become a classic any time soon. The characters are believable and you do feel a genuine likeness for them but they are not developed enough within the script.
BizAsia Showbiz Rating: 3/5