Overview: A down-on-his-luck sports agent recruits players from India via a well thought out competition. Walt Disney Pictures; Rated PG; 124 min
A solid mix: As we’ve come to expect from Disney produced sports films, this movie does a lot right when it comes to feel good movie tricks. Where it stands out the the most, however, is its surprising blend of the Bollywood style with Hollywood tradition. Combining these styles can be a tricky proposition. Both offer a very different definition of “flashy.” Here the flashy, musically-toned Bollywood style provides a relieving break from the paint-by-the-numbers familiarity that can weight down the Disney formula. As Million Dollar Arm flashes between JB (Jon Hamm) conducting his business in L.A. to his arrival in India, the mish-mash of film and sports culture is a fun-filled experience.
Hamm(y) and friends: While the central narrative offers a trip into the lives of Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), the journey is piloted for middle class, American audiences by Jon Hamm’s seamless turn as the white playboy-turned-fatherly-type. Sharma and Mittal are the driving force here, as the unlikely underdog heroes. Comic relief is provided by Amit (Pitobash), the blissfully spacey but sincere translator who just wants to be a part of the “team.” Alan Arkin steps in as Ray, the same quirky but wise Grandpa role that Arkin has been playing for the entire last decade. Disney is not above cheap shots, and the placement of Arkin in this role results in the predictable touching moment. And man, Bill Paxton is good here, with his presentation of the coach who cares more about his players than anything else. Props are due to the casting crew of this movie.
Final thoughts: With apologies to my girlfriend, who was expecting me to rip into this film for its use of overwrought and predictable formula, I just can’t do it. Though Million Dollar Arm offers the same banal approach that we see in nearly every Disney sports film, it still does it right, blending real life circumstance with a film recipe that’s loaded with cinematic sugar, but irresistible to the palate. I tend not to dabble in the likes of a feel good Disney films, or my feminine side (not embarrassed by it), but this film got all up in my emotions and had me rooting for these guys to succeed. Damn it, man. Disney is good at that.