Million Dollar Arm
Agent of Distraction

Following their success with Remember the Titans in 2000, Disney began releasing based-on-true-events inspirational sports dramas every couple of years.  For the most part, these movies have been consistently entertaining and successful with Titans and Miracle being arguably the cream of the crop. As entertaining as they are, however, by following virtually the same formula with every movie, they are feeling less and less fresh with each new outing.  That is very apparent in their latest film, Million Dollar Arm, a moderately entertaining effort that hits a little too many clichés on its way around the bases.

Jon Hamm plays J.B. Bernstein, a struggling sports agent who has just lost the big client that he hoped would get him back in the game.  Desperate to find a hot new prospect, he has an epiphany while watching late night TV.  Flipping back and forth between <i>Britain’s Got Talent</i> and an Indian Cricket match, he decides that he is going to travel to India and find a couple of hard-throwing Cricket bowlers that he could train to be major league pitchers.  To help find his diamonds in the rough, he sets up his scouting trip as a reality-television talent show.  The big event is held and J.B. brings the two winners back to the States with him.

John Hamm as J. B. in Million Dollar ArmFor both Rinku and Dinesh, the two winners, this is the first time that they have left their hometowns in India and the shift in culture is a major shock for them.  J.B. would be the ideal guide for the two young men as they adjust to life in Los Angeles, where they are training with the USC baseball coach, but J.B. is distracted.  The big client that he lost at the beginning of the movie is suddenly a possibility again and he all but abandons his two prospects for a chance at what he believes would be guaranteed fortune and happiness.  But this wouldn’t be an inspirational Disney sports movie if he didn’t eventually come to his senses now, would it?

Million Dollar Arm follows the inspirational Disney sports movie formula with unwavering loyalty.  The result is a movie that not only suffers through every sports movie cliché, but every culture clash movie cliché as well.  That is not to say that the movie is a waste.  There are plenty of laughs to be had and the story itself is fascinating.

Unfortunately, the fascinating story is that of Rinku and Dinesh, not that of Hamm’s Bernstein.  By following Bernstein’s arc more so than that of his two prodigies, the movie loses something.  Bernstein, who also wrote the book on which this movie is based, feels more like a distraction to the story than the actual story the movie makes him out to be.  It feels like it would have been more productive to focus on Bill Paxton’s USC coach Tom House, as he attempts to mold these two raw athletes and get them ready for their try-out in front of Major League scouts.

It also feels like the movie really wasted an opportunity to play up the reality television show angle.  Bernstein mentions that he wants to turn his search for talent in India into a television show, but that idea seems to all but disappear from the story until the crowds have gathered and the cameras are rolling.  It would have been interesting to get some behind-the-scenes on a U.S. scout’s attempts to produce a television show in India.

As entertaining as these Disney sports movies are, it is beginning to feel like we should expect more out of them.  Million Dollar Arm is entertaining, sure, but with other story angles seemingly overlooked, it feels like it could have been much better than just entertaining.

Million Dollar Arm is rated PG for “mild language and some suggestive content.”  The content here is consistent with any other Disney sports movie and should be okay for all but the most impressionable of viewers.  

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Million Dollar Arm.