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'Million Dollar Arm' is a game changer

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'Million Dollar Arm' movie review

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Think you’re not a fan of America’s favorite pastime, baseball? Well, ‘Million Dollar Arm’ is so much more than a baseball movie. It is an inspiring feel-good story extolling the finer points of teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.

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Directed by Craig Gillespie ( ‘Lars and the Real Girl’) it is a story based on the life of sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm). In 2007, when J.B. finds that business has changed and things aren’t going well for his career, he travels to India In a last ditch effort to save his livelihood to produce a reality show competition called ‘The Million Dollar Arm.’ He believed that he could find the next Yao Ming (except for baseball) among the cricket loving population so he held baseball trials throughout India’s countryside, to find a young cricket pitcher that he could turn into a major baseball star.

Aided by a cantankerous but eagle-eyed retired baseball scout, Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin), he discovers two 18-year-old boys, Dinesh (played by Madhur Mittal from ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) and Rinku (played by Suraj Sharma from ‘Life of Pi’), 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 some quick cash, J.B. brings the boys home to America to train. But he soon learns that he is out of his element in handling them (they have never left their rural villages). With the help of his tenant, Brenda (Lake Bell), he learns valuable lessons about life, family and love.

The cast includes Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Lake Bell, and Alan Arkin.

Whether it is the skillful art of conducting business in India or navigating the waters of Los Angeles, both J.B. and the boys explore new territory in finely crafted comedic scenes. For example, Rinku and Dinesh are amazed by an elevator door that opens and closes when a hand is extended in its path to the dismay of fellow passengers. And, J.B. learns that doing business in India takes time and money under the table to ensure their goods arrives for the competition.

The film also highlights the relationship of the young men and their reluctant guardian, J.B. who matures from a self-centered, egotistical all around jerk, to a loving father figure. Of course, Jon Hamm who plays J.B. knows quite a bit about being an ego maniac since his acclaimed character on T.V.’s ‘Mad Men’ is the reigning holder of that title. As a result, he turns in a stellar performance delivering heart rendering scenes filled with compassion and humility.

The chemistry between Mittal and Sharma is great. Each seems to play off the other as they progress from insecure boys to confident and capable ball players. The audience will surely see the bond between these two excellent actors.

Both J.B., Rinku and Dinesh are influenced and lovingly nurtured by Lake Bell’s character, Brenda. She is the glue that guides both parties to maturity. Ms. Bell gives a solid performance as the down-to-earth neighbor/J.B.’s love interest.

‘Million Dollar Arm’ is a great movie filled with life lessons (expect tears). It examines the overall concept of family with many laughs along the way.

It is rated PG for mild language and some suggestive content with a run time of 124 minutes.

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