Jon Hamm (Mad Men) sheds his Don Draper persona bringing complexity to JB Bernstein, a real life Jerry Maguire type of sports agent that's had clientele like Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin but they're all retired as his associate, Aash (Aasif Mandvi) reminds him. After a pitch to Popo (Bengals MLB Rey Maualuga), the NFL's sack leader goes awry. Bernstein about to hit an financial crisis until he starts to watch Aash's favorite sport, Cricket. A pastime in India that has the same type of baseball mechanics . Million Dollar Arm is created and he's given a year to bring two potential pitching talents from the financial backing of a Chinese organization. Grab your passports, we're heading to India!
Two underdog stories come together. One that we already witness and another becoming simplistic. To accomplish an impossible dream, somebody has to attempt it. The only two to make it is Dinesh (Madhur Mittel), an tall but quiet young man with an arm that could rival Royals ace James Shields and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) who before he delivers his fastball positions himself as an flamingo and lets it fly. However, they are raw and thanks to Bernstein's friend, USC pitching coach Tom House (the reliable Bill Paxton) they now have a chance to make a Major League team.
Tom McCarthy's screenplay follows the "Based on a true story" playbook from the players introducing each other, adjusting to new surroundings, failure and of course, the epic conclusion. What makes it work is humanizing the characters and even a realistic love story that doesn't make me nauseous. Director Craig Gillespie craft awe-inspiring shots as we witness the journey across India from the low income, cramped downtown to the heated landscape that even at nightfall it still remains hot with the characters sweating it out mixing in modern technology especially with JB and his friend, Brenda (Lake Bell) when he brings back a piece of the Taj Mahal where size isn't an issue.
Hamm's versatility is proven with JB's ego intacted, showing when it's bruised and at rock bottom how humility can triumph. Good to see, Bell showing realism in her likable, honest character that knows how to keep JB in his place. Mittel and Sharma are terrific, not only when they are having conversations in their native tongue but when they are struggling to understand English, they bring emotion and charisma to their characters. However, it’s Bollywood star Pitobash who steals the show with his eagerness to learn and doing whatever it takes to achieve his own dream of becoming a pitching coach. Great supportive work by Mandvi and Alan Arkin as retired MLB scout Ray Poitevint bringing deadpan humor and a grounded presence.
Million Dollar Arm humanizes its story and characters giving sports fans something to cheer about even though it’s telegraphed from the first pitch. With it’s Indian-inspired soundtrack and gamed cast that seals the complete game shutout.