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A Great Pitch

  • Danish Bagdadi

    Danish Bagdadi

    Desimartini | Updated - May 18, 2014 3:41 PM IST
    3.4DM (350 ratings)

    Verdict - Sweet and funny, despite being utterly predictable.

    Million Dollar ArmWatch trailerRelease date : May 09, 2014

    Despite slavishly ticking off every last requirement of any feel-good, underdog sports film ever made, 'Million Dollar Arm' works surprisingly well. Yes, for us natives, India is far from perfectly represented but unlike 'Slumdog Millionaire', the perspective is that of an arrogant, selfish man on his first trip to India rather than a local, so things in my opinion are forgivable.

    Based on a true story, the plot does take a few creative liberties with characters and events but largely remains faithful to the tale. Baseball sports agent, JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and his partner, Ash (Aasif Mandvi) have just lost their biggest client to a rival company. With no means of etching out a survival in sight, Bernstein has his eureka moment one night while channel surfing and alternating between Britain's Got Talent and a cricket match featuring India. He conceives and pitches a reality show called 'Million Dollar Arm', where he'd go around India looking for a cricketer who could become a baseball player in America. Sounds like a great gimmick and with an abundance of cricket bowlers in India, he thinks it'll be a cakewalk. Unfortunately once he's in India, he soon learns things work much differently here. After many trials and tribulations, he finds two small town boys worthy of being given a shot at a pitching contract for an American baseball team. But these boys have never been out of the village forget the country and soon enough the self-centred JB finds it takes more than money and false promises to foster a relationship, talent and hope. There's also a major subplot involving a blossoming romantic liaison with his neighbour, Brenda (Lake Bell).

    Yes, the obligatory scenes of hot and dusty India with the crowded streets and bumpy roads are littered through the movie. But it also finds ways of poking fun at other usual cliches such as a the Taj Mahal. Most of the scenes involving the Indians involve them speaking in Hindi which was a refreshing change; however once the boys are in the US it doesn't take them long to master the language quite proficiently.

    There is a certain unbridled sweetness and genuine care taken to cultivate the persona of the two boys (Suraj Sharma from Life of Pi and Madhur Mittal from Slumdog Millionaire) are true underdogs. There is also enough unique character given to them along with all the requisite Indian traits such the habit of addressing everyone they meet as Sir or the initial shyness with new surroundings. It would have been more interesting to present the movie more from their point of view than JB's since his character arch of going from being an unbearable jerk to nice guy is quite predictable.

    Alan Arkin easily steals the show whenever onscreen and you wish you'd get to see more of him. Pitobash is good but sometimes oscillates wildly sometime trying to overact, the whole acting your butt out mentality of Bollywood is quite evident sometimes, especially in the climactic scene. Lake Bell is adorable and a perfect foil to the grumpy Hamm. Darshan Jariwala turns up in a small but effective role with a nice little monologue to remind Hamm his responsibility to the boys.

    Million Dollar Arm is a sweet little film filled with a predictable plot and some stereotyping which might rub some the wrong way. Honestly I've seen way worse and if anything, this movie tries to be far more grounded than most. Watch it, you won't be disappointed.

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