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Million Dollar Arm: Nice at 90 MPH

June 6, 2014

million dollar arm movie poster

Now that the dust has settled and Million Dollar Arm has proven to be a rare Disney sport’s failure. It will be interesting to look back and see what went wrong. Theoretically, a true sports story from Disney should be box-office gold. They have a tried and true system that made Cool Runnings, The Rookie, Miracle and Invincible money machines. I think the competition, lack of awareness and source material (man is jerk, man becomes less of a jerk) doomed the film to only break even.

Million Dollar Arm has its faults. However, the “cliche” angle that most critics are using is too lazy.  Every sports movie features cliches. Actually, every genre borrows from everything else. Recent well received films like Godzilla, X-Men Days of Future Past and Captain America: Winter Soldier are all good films that tell a familiar story To say movies are riddled with the familiar is lazy. You could do that with every film nowadays. The movie theaters are bombarded with the familiar yet when a nice sports film is released it gets the worst of it. Neil Pond of American Profile wrote a great quote about the film:

More cynical viewers might wish for a more cynical movie, but for anyone who wants to bask in a ray of early summer sunshine, this uplifting, spirit-boosting tale could be just your ticket.

Million Dollar Arm is a nice tale of an agent training two Indian men to become MLB pitchers. Instead of focusing on the sport aspect it centers around the search for international superstars. Yao Ming proved to be a cash machine in China and that is what takes Jon Hamm to India.  He has one year to take two Indian cricket players (the two men don’t actually play cricket) and turn them into prospects. It is daunting, complicated and a huge responsibility. Of course, a selfish man who only wants to make money will screw up. Imagine being a supermodel dating bachelor who suddenly has to watch over three men who have never left their villages. He probably couldn’t have handled a fish and is no way equipped to deal with homesick guys who need guidance.

Millon Dollar Arm pitobash

Will he overcome his selfishness and become a caring man? Yep. However, his motivation to become a better man is handled really well and not shoehorned in at the final moment.  He has a fantastic love interest played by Lake Bell (watch In a World). Bell is such a funny and relaxed actress she rises above the “stock girlfriend” role and makes it organic. Also, costars Pitobash, Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal are so kind, intelligent and wide-eyed you can’t wait for their inevitable success. You like spending time with the characters and even when Alan Arkin is sleeping you want to give him an Oscar.

million dollar arm movie

Million Dollar Arm won’t garner a Cool Running following (Great Empire article here) or convince anyone to strive for more (Invincible struck a chord with me). However, it gives us a neat success story. When the big speeches are made and hard work pays off you cheer with delight. To not like this film would be be highly cynical.

Million Dollar Arm dares to blast you with sunshine amid a world of comic book films. The story of redemption and baseball never gets old and should be celebrated and not picked apart. The stakes are never high yet some moments carry a beautiful weight. Sit back, relax and enjoy an interesting story that one day will be appreciated.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2014 8:43 am

    Hey guys, it’s Neil (not Steve), but thanks all the same for the quote! 🙂

  2. June 7, 2014 1:32 pm

    It’s heart is clearly in the right place, but it didn’t really do much of anything we haven’t seen done a hundred times before. It also just felt more conventional than ever this time, too, because there wasn’t any characters worth caring about. Good review.

    • June 7, 2014 1:36 pm

      I agree. I was able to roll with the familiarity though. I worked on the film which jaded my review as well. Good set.

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