Grand Slam Inspiration, Same Formula

Million Dollar Arm


Disney seems to have their hands in every pot these days with animation, superhero movies, even Star Wars is in the plans these days.  However tonight’s review is all about Disney’s sports movie genre.  Now with classics like Remember the Titans and Miracle, we’ve seen the studios make history come alive, yet the current focus for many sports movies is moving out of the arena and going behind the scenes of the athletic world.  Today I share my thoughts on Million Dollar Arm, another addition to the baseball movie franchise.  .


Now we all know Disney, they like to open up a film, most of the time, by showing the protagonist being down on their luck, and this film is no different.  After a client decides to look at a different company to sponsor him, JB (Jon Hamm) is forced to take a gamble on recruiting the first Major League players from India.  With the help of his crew, he manages to find Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), two boys with big dreams and big hearts, who are forced to take a trip that will challenge all of their characters.


Will they do it?  I’m not telling you, but Disney has combined a variety of things to make a great story for you to enjoy.  First thing to mention is the blending of cultures.  Director Craig Gillepsie has crafted a film that shows off the lifestyles of both Americans and Indians alike.  The comparison and contrast of these cultures is beautifully captured on film, often accompanied by a score that compliments the customs and feel of the scene.  While Disney still has a way of adding sappy, everything is happy moments; they alleviate such antics with comedy relief, often throwing insults to both cultures in a classy way that keeps the movie fun.  This balanced blend is much appreciated, as it keeps the movie fresh and avoids making the movie a two-hour snooze fest.


However the cinematography is not just about showing off the unique settings, but also assisting in bringing the characters to life.  Of course acting helps with characters as well, and Million Dollar Arm has a strong cast to support the story.  Hamm has the most dynamic role, forced to transition between various qualities, as his character evolves over the course of the film.  Sharma and Mittal, do a nice job playing the boys discovering a new world who bear a heavy weight of making their country/families proud.  Pitobash and Alan Arkin are the comedy stars, each delivering the lines with well-timed emphasis that adds the kick to make the scene funny, especially when it’s not beaten over your head (take notes people, more doesn’t mean better).  Finally the lovely Lake Bell cleans up for the main crew.  A combination of beauty and acting, Bell’s character Brenda provides confidence, rationality, and fun that makes you feel energized no matter what consequences may arise.  The chemistry between all of them is incredible, and very balanced to craft a family you will fall in love with.


   Of course this is a Disney movie and that means, especially when it comes to real life movies, inspirational moments.  Million Dollar Arm is filled to the brim with moments that will make you want to go out and fight for your dreams.  As custom to Disney, these scenes are often elaborate, with great emphasis on the characters challenges, struggles, or skills.  Close ups on their faces are often followed by sequences of audience members watching in suspense, including skeptical scouts and coaches, trying to bring you into the scene.  And of course, Disney quickly offsets such suspense, with a light hearted gimmick that helps relieve the tension you might be feeling.  Such feel good moments are old hat for Disney, especially with the music score they choose to play alongside the scene, but at the end of the movie you will get a warm feeling in your heart that might bring a tear to your eye. 


Yet like their heartwarming scenes, Million Dollar Arm is a predictable story filled with obvious foreshadowing and build-up to what comes next.  Those who don’t pay attention to obvious cues may be surprised by the outcomes, but otherwise don’t expect many twists in this story.  Also the stakes for failure seem to be high in the movie, yet when they actually fail, the consequences do not reflect the tone the characters make and are often blown over.  Perhaps it’s because they wanted a quicker movie, or perhaps just wanted to keep it upbeat, but there is a lack of bite to this film.  Even when JB goofs up and upsets his “family” there is no edge, just quick a resolve that makes everything suddenly okay.  A final, minor weakness, is that this movie is like all the other Disney sports movies you’ve seen.  The formula is still the same and the lack of a new approach takes away the uniqueness of the film


Regardless of the weaknesses, Million Dollar Arm is a good movie that is great for audiences of all ages.  The chemistry between the actors should pull you into their little group, having you root for the team, as they embark on their journey.  Throw in the comedy and a little love story, and you’ve got something for everyone to enjoy.  Yes, it’s still Disney’s “magical” approach to everything, but I assure you that this movie will put a smile on your face and entertain you nonetheless.  So if you’re looking for a film this weekend, I give two thumbs up for Million Dollar Arm! 


My scores are:

Biography/Drama/Sports:  7.5

Movie Overall:  8.0

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