Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel are names that are HUGE in India, and if you follow baseball in the US you may be familiar with them to some degree. Both were signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008. Personally until Tuesday night when I went to see an early screening of “Million Dollar Arm” I was completely clueless as to who they were, but can now quite happily say I have some concept of who these two gentleman are. Though the movie is based on a real life story I don’t want to ruin it for you so I will try and avoid any major spoilers.
Walking into “Million Dollar Arm” I was honestly expecting Disney’s “The Mighty Ducks Do Baseball”, but was proven wrong in the first 20 minutes of the movie. The film is based on the true story of Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) the first Indian nationals ever to sign with a major American sports team and how they were discovered by sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm). Bernstein and his partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) run a struggling athlete management firm Seven Figures Management and come up with idea of the Million Dollar Arm. The contest concept is simple, allow hopefuls to sign up in a pitch-off. This will allow J.B. and Aash to find a pitcher from India, a country full of cricket players that in 2008 was considered an “untapped source of Athletic talent” and bring the winner(s) to the United States to learn how to pitch baseball in hopes they get signed by a Major League baseball team. The first part of the film is beautifully filmed in India focuses on this search and shows little pieces of Indian culture Americans may not know. It also gives a very startling and realistic visual of life in India when the boys take J.B. home to their village to say their good-byes to their families without being to graphic and disturbing.
After winning the contest Singh and Patel and JB’s Indian assistant and translator, Amit (Pitobash) travel to Los Angeles where they trained with University of Southern California pitching coach Tom House (Bill Paxton). Upon arrival in LA the film starts to show a conflicting character growth in J.B. that seems to flip-flop back and forth through parts of the film. Brenda (Lake Bell) plays J.B.’s unexpected love interest, and also acts as a bridge and bonding agent between the boys and J.B. Million Dollar Arm isn’t campy, nor is it overly gut wrenching, instead it is deep yet funny and tells the story well. I found myself rooting for the boys, being mad at J.B. in some of his more flaming self-absorbed moments, and cracking up at Aash, as well as tearing up at his most poignant conversation towards the end of the movie.
I highly recommend “Million Dollar Arm” as a date night movie, or a family movie day option. I honestly feel due to it’s lack of violence, bad language, inappropriate adult behavior, and positive message that anyone can do anything they want as long as they put their mind to it and work hard this movie is a great family movie. I also think the scenes in India create a unique opportunity to discuss cultural and economic differences with kids old enough to see the visual differences in Rinku and Dinesh’s home towns and houses and the hometowns and houses of American children. It also has wonderful examples of how if one if willing to accept other people’s cultural traditions and religion that these differences can open the door to deep and meaningful friendships. I also recommend staying for at least the first half of the credits. Disney was able to take photos and video of the “Million Dollar Arm” contest in India, as well as “home photos” of the boys and J.B. during training and incorporate them into the credits showing everyone how true to life the film is.
Disney’s Million Dollar Arm opens in theaters across the US May 16, 2014. I can not say enough times how wonderful this film was and how much I recommend you go see it.
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