“Million Dollar Arm” is an underdog, feel-good story, and who doesn’t like one of those? Sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is trying to land a huge client to keep his three-person operation afloat. When it doesn’t go through, he and business partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) concoct an outlandish plan that includes recruiting cricket players from India and finding at least one who can be a Major League star.
If the plot sounds a bit farfetched, it is. But that’s what gives the story heart. It takes JB out of his comfort zone, trekking all over India on the dime of a big time investor to find his “million dollar arm.” There he meets up with long-time baseball scout, Ray (Alan Arkin) who adds in some grumpy old man humor. After weeks in India and multiple tryouts later, he finds two winners, Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) to bring back to the States and prepare for a MLB tryout.
Rinku and Dinesh find it difficult to become accustomed to Los Angeles and get pushed to the side when JB starts to woo a big client again. JB has them set up with USC baseball coach Tom House (Bill Paxton), but there are struggles on all sides. Stressed, homesick and literally stuck in a foreign country, Rinku and Dinesh feel the pressure of what’s expected of them in a short time. Fortunately, this is a happy ending kind of movie and it’s not all drama. Amit (played by actor Pitobash, which according to his IMDb profile is making his Hollywood debut in “Million Dollar Arm) is the assistant that working for free due to his sheer love of baseball.
JB meets Amit in India and allows him to help with the recruiting and when back in LA, he serves as a caretaker/translator/and the go-between connecting JB to Dinesh and Rinku. He’s a fun character bringing an energetic warmth to his role and really steals the show with a motivating coach’s speech.
Between Amit and JB’s neighbor/tenant, Brenda (Lake Bell), they help keep the boys (and JB) grounded and even allow them all to have some fun. It’s nice to see Bell in a character that is more leading lady and less snarky best friend next door, although she plays that part quite nicely, too. While the chemistry is lackluster between Brenda and JB as romance starts to evolve, the feeling of family is still felt giving off that warm and fuzzy vibe.
The movie, while predictable, is entertaining and heartwarming. It’s one the family can enjoy together without the need for all the special effects that will fill this summer's blockbusters. The story has substance and the characters are worth rooting for a win.
Final words: “Million Dollar Arm” should elicit plenty of cheers from the crowd.