Why Million Dollar Arm is the Slumdog Millionaire of sports movies

Set in India, Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2009 for its uplifting themes of hope, courage and family. Now Disney’s new sports film takes a trip to India and exports two inspirational cricket players who come to America with big dreams. Jon Hamm stars in this sweet and spicy family movie.

Million Dollar ArmPhoto credit: Disney

Sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a hustler growing more desperate as his startup boutique sports agency is about to strike out. Like a less-noble Jerry Maguire, Bernstein devises a scheme that takes him to India in an effort to find the next big baseball pitcher by poaching India’s best cricket players.

The plan? Set up a contest and reality show where the fastest pitcher wins a million dollars and a chance to come to America.

While this story sounds like a Bollywood tale full of dream-making and breaking, Million Dollar Arm is actually based on a true story. In 2008, the real Bernstein brought Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh to the United States from India. Both played in baseball’s minor leagues for a short period of time, and both men’s lives changed forever.

In the movie, Bernstein employs the help of a cranky baseball scout (Alan Arkin) who can judge a pitch by the sound of the ball whooshing through the air. Together, they finally stumble upon two promising 18-year-old men. Singh is played by Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) and Patel by Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire).

Million Dollar Arm

Photo credit: Disney

While the film is a Zen journey for the two young Indian men who are about to discover the delights and pitfalls of life in America, it also focuses on Bernstein’s personal growth in a way that is spiritual, emotional and even romantic, as Bernstein becomes involved with his tenant Brenda (Lake Bell).

While Jon Hamm plays the sports agent as a self-proclaimed bachelor, he must tap into his deeply buried paternal side to help young Singh and Patel, who desperately need a father figure. The teens have never been out of the subcontinent, let alone away from their villages or families, and flounder without the support of their loved ones.

With music from A. R. Rahman, who scored Slumdog, the movie incorporates the genuine sights and sounds of a lush, tropical and seductive India. We suggest you pair this film with dinner at your local favorite Indian restaurant, as we were craving a nice sweet and spicy yellow curry after the movie.

Like Slumdog Millionaire, this movie has a lot of heart and enough laughs to keep the story light and fun. Disney is famous for its “found family”-themed movies, and this one is no different. Each character must dig deep and face his fears in order fulfill his individual destiny.

Million Dollar Arm

Photo credit: Disney

Bottom line: this is a film about the power of family that just happens to be about baseball, too. Million Dollar Arm opens May 16.


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