Slumdog Moneyball

Million Dollar Arm

million_dollar_arm

Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Jon Hamm, Alan Arkin, Suraj Sharma, Bill Paxton, Lake Bell, Aashif Mandvi, Maddhur Mittal

Disney’s take on baseball meets Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire comes in the form of the charming sports film, Million Dollar Arm featuring Mad Men’s Jon Hamm teaming up with Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma and Alan Arkin from Argo.

Set in India and Los Angeles, director Craig Gillespie’s Million Dollar Arm premiering at the Durban International Film Festival 2014 – http://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/ tells the true story of a down on his luck sports agents J. Bernstein, played by Hamm who while channel surfing flicking between Britain’s Got Talent and cricket in India on late night TV, comes up with an epiphany to travel to India to find the next big baseball player.

The only problem is that in India, once the jewel of the British colonial empire, the main sport is cricket as it in the rest of the Commonwealth and the general male population there do not play baseball. With the help of a shady Chinese business investor Chang played by Tzi Ma, J. B. Bernstein travels to chaotic Mumbai to discover a world so alien and different to his lavish and ordered Californian lifestyle, one in which he was a once successful sports agent.

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Spurred on by his tenant, Brenda played by Lake Bell, J. B. Bernstein travels the length and breadth of India in search of a cricket player with a million dollar arm. He is helped by a retired baseball talent spotter Ray wonderfully underplayed by Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) who discover two young men Rinky and Dinesh, played by Suraj Sharma and Maddhur Mittal respectively who each possess a million dollar arm, or an above average ball throwing speed.

Part of the enticement for these two young players is the opportunity of traveling to the United States and play a game that they have never played before. Leaving the rural confines of Lucknow, India, they are suddenly transplanted in University of Southern California’s baseball fields where they are coached by the cautious yet optimistic coach Tom House played by Bill Paxton.

Naturally as a Disney film, director Gillespie in Million Dollar Arm aims for a general feel good sports film while making insightful observations about the massive cultural differences between India and America and highlighting each society’s similarities.

Jon Hamm is excellent as the exasperated JB Bernstein supported by a great cast especially Oscar winner Arkin and the always amiable Lake Bell, along with Aashif Mandvi as Aash while Suraj Sharma and Maddhur Mittal make the most of their roles as young Indian boys caught up in an essentially American sporting dilemma. Watch out for a superb musical score by A. R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire).

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Unlike the very specific baseball films Moneyball or Field of Dreams, Million Dollar Arm is enjoyable family viewing and will appeal to sporting enthusiasts both in America and the commonwealth highlighting Hollywood’s increasing desire to deliver more international fare. A thought provoking and fascinating film about the increasing globalization of sport and the desire for all people to achieve seemingly impossible dreams. Like Indian hockey players trying out for the American National Baseball league. Recommended viewing especially as it is a true story.

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