Sophia Ritchie ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
With a truly inspirational story at its base and a starstudded cast, it would have seemed Million Dollar Arm had everything it needed to succeed; it just needed to not screw it up. But for all its potential, the film failed to conjure up any real meaning, just barely managing to entertain.
Mad Men’s Jon Hamm is J.B. Bernstein, the man behind the real-life competition “Million Dollar Arm”, where his sports agency scoured India for cricket players to convert to major league baseball players. Hamm is channelling everything he has to play a jerk, and while it’s meant to come off as charming, it renders him completely unlikeable. At the beginning of the movie, he sits in an expensive sports car on a roof overlooking the LA skyline, pleading for an extension to pay a bill (uncomfortable close-ups and lens flare abound). That’s J.B.’s vibe all the way: privileged, handsome man experiencing the smallest hardship for the first time, and the audience is meant to feel sorry for him.
When J.B. heads to India, he makes snarky comment after snarky comment about the smell of the country, about how hot it is, and how no one is working hard enough to make things run on time. Bordering on offensive, he and his American associates frequently rail on Indian culture, and the Indian stars are left little to do but grin and bare it. No one ever corrects his behavior, either. He leaves India with a small entourage (headed by Indian actor Pitobash as Amit Rohan, an eager baseball enthusiast), glad to be gone.
The saving graces of the film lie in the supporting performances of Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal (and that is exactly how they are treated: though this is the life story of two inspirational baseball players, they are never the focus, always support.) Sharma plays Rinku Singh, the mischievous javelin-thrower whose unorthodox methods earned him the first place spot in the competition. Mittal plays Dinesh Patel, a field-hockey player who gave up his dreams to assist his working father, but shows wild talent and takes second place. Both Sharma and Mittal are joys to watch; the two are expressive, talented, and fun onscreen. But neither is given a chance to shine when the camera always seems to be focusing on J.B. and his ultimately meaningless struggles.
Lake Bell plays J.B.’s love interest, Brenda, who assists in all the wacky shenanigans the boys get up to and provides a more grounded aspect in this lofty film. She is the only one to call J.B. out on his nonsense, but once again, she is never given enough screen time or dialogue to really cut his aggressive bad habits with her own common sense.
Where this film really fails is that it’s not nearly as “feel-good” as it was marketed to be. J.B. isn’t someone the audience can sympathize with, and he is constantly failing Rinku, Dinesh, and Amit, who have to rely on him for nearly everything.
Million Dollar Arm had everything it needed to win, but ultimately, by wasting a good cast and a heartwarming story on some sort of confused moral message, it struck out hard.
Overall Grade: C