When Disney gets it right, it is easy to consider them our best or certainly most entertaining movie studio. They have delivered one of the finest movies you are likely to see this year with “Million Dollar Arm.” The perfect screenplay finds the perfect cast in this crowd pleaser that combines all the hopes and dreams of talent competitions with the excitement of sports. However, the character relationships and human drama are the heart of this must-see movie for everyone.
Based on a true story, the movie follows the efforts of J.B. Bernstein to make it as an independent sports agent. “Mad Men’s” Jon Hamm finds just the right balance of self-centered materialism and aloof likability as Bernstein. He’s a good guy at heart but his career focus and his lack of commitment to or compassion for others causes him to unintentionally hurt those around him. A year beyond the timeframe he and his partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) set for themselves, they still struggle to find an athlete to sign with them.
One particularly gloomy night finds him flipping the TV between Susan Boyle’s amazing singing audition and a cricket match and his last gasp scheme is born. He heads to India with a competition to discover and cultivate two Major League Baseball pitching prospects in one year. He finds Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, played by the earnestly charming Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal, as well as so desirous to be a baseball coach he’ll work for free Amit (an instantly ingratiating Pitobash). Together they must face culture shock, a language barrier and seemingly insurmountable odds to realize their dreams.
“Million Dollar Arm” offers these characters the opportunity of a lifetime and moviegoers the opportunity to see an outstanding merger of Bollywood and Hollywood actors. Rising star Lake Bell is charming and sensible as Bernstein’s tenant and personal wake up call. Alan Arkin does his most restrained yet still cantankerous work in years as a pitching scout and Bill Paxton is spot on as pitching coach Tom House. Allyn Rachel also delightfully leaves you wanting more in the small but very noticeable role of Bernstein’s staff member Theresa in this instant classic that’s as good as movies get.