Million Dollar Arm is the story of the first two Indians signed to professional baseball contracts by the major leagues, but really it’s the story of Jon Hamm’s JB Bernstein and how he learns to loosen up, start having fun, fall in love, etc. JB Bernstein plays a sports agent tasked to find potential pitchers in India through a reality show titled Million Dollar Arm, the thinking being that they play cricket, why not baseball? At this point in the film, Bernstein is desperate and willing to give anything a shot.
When he gets to India, he encounters local business owners he has to grease, terrible traffic, and stomach problems. On the plus side, he gets to flirt over Skype with his tenant Brenda (Lake Bell) who’s in med school. Bernstein is accustomed to dating models, you see, but Brenda is sweet and funny and so Bernstein decides to slum it with her. India grows on him, though he doesn’t have much time for the Taj Mahal, but he eventually finds his arms in Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh, played by Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) and Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi, sans tiger) respectively.
Upon arrival to the United States, Dinesh and Rinku experience the whole fish out of water thing you’d imagine, being in a country whose language you don’t speak and whose customs you probably only have a cursory knowledge of. They eat pizza. They stay at Bernstein’s mansion. They go to a Hollywood house party and drink too much. They eat more pizza. They’re accompanied by Amit Rohan (Pitobash Tripathy), who’s not athletic enough to be a ballplayer, but wants to coach.
These three are the best thing about the movie, and frankly, I wish there were more of them in it. The boys start their training at USC with coach Tom House (Bill Paxton) for their eventual Major League tryout, but Bernstein doesn’t have much time for them. Doesn’t bode well for their tryout.
By this point, Bernstein has gone from internet flirtation to spending the night in the cottage out back with Brenda, but he’s still got a thing or two to learn about fun and love and being a decent human being to three kids in a foreign country that would frighten anyone.
I’ll try not to spoil too much, but if you’ve ever seen any movie, you know there must be a down before there can be an up, and this gives Bernstein a chance to give a speech on having fun to Dinesh and Rinku. Just what they needed.
Jon Hamm gives a nice, workmanlike performance, and Alan Arkin is fine in the Alan Arkin role. All the performances are good, really. There are genuinely sweet moments and a few laughs. Will you like it? It’s more The Blind Side and The Rookie than Moneyball. But that’s okay.
The official synopsis from Walt Disney Pictures:
Based on a true story, sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) finds that business has changed and things aren’t going well for his career. In a last ditch effort to save his livelihood he 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 “The Million Dollar Arm.” With the help of cantankerous but eagle-eyed retired baseball scout Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin), he discovers Dinesh (played by Madhur Mittal from “Slumdog Millionaire”) and Rinku (played by Suraj Sharma from “Life of Pi”), 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 (Lake Bell), learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.
Visit the Official Million Dollar Arm website
Million Dollar Arm opens in theaters today!