MOVIE REVIEW: Million Dollar Arm

My wife thought Bill Paxton was so convincing as pitching coach Tom House, she thought he was the actual guy.

milliondollararmI suppose I should not have been surprised that the Daughter expressed tremendous interest in seeing the film Million Dollar Arm. She watches these annoying Disney shows on TV, and I imagine they have promoted the movie incessantly. A Memorial Day matinee trek to the Spectrum Theatre was in order.

There is an inherent problem with most movies based on real life. Additional issues come from sports movies, which generally slip into cliche. Still, the premise was interesting: a struggling sports agent, JB (Jon Hamm) comes up with a wild idea. What if he could find a baseball pitcher or two from India, perhaps kids who grew up playing cricket? This would attract a brand new market of a billion people to start watching American baseball.

Of course, the process does not go smoothly, but eventually, two young men make the trip to the US to learn the game and experience the fish-out-of-water hijinks one might expect. Finally, the big tryout is scheduled.

Here’s the thing: I rather liked much of the movie anyway. The parts in India were especially interesting. And a scene where one of the players was leaving home for the first time and had to say goodbye to his mother I found touching.

Much of the cast I enjoyed, including Suraj Sharma (star of Life of Pi) and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) as the young pitchers, Pitobash as the coach wannabe, and Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show) as JB’s partner. Lake Bell (In a World…) was fine as Brenda, JB’s tenant, even though their eventual relationship is telegraphed. My wife thought Bill Paxton was so convincing as pitching coach Tom House, she thought he was the actual guy. Alan Arkin is always good; he plays a scout.

Possibly the weakest link was Jon Hamm. I have liked him on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, but here he was more mechanical, or maybe it was the writing. Ken Levine wrote: “The one thing I took from seeing MILLION DOLLAR ARM is that Jon Hamm needs Matthew Weiner’s words. Don Draper’s really a boring guy without great writing.”

The Daughter loved the music, and danced to the Bollywood hip hop at the end of the film; the other dozen patrons had already left. Despite its 2:04 running time, I was seldom bored, and it was a decent pic to see with the kids.

In the end, we see the real people in the story. The fact that Million Dollar Arm used the hidden fact trick did not diminish the story.
Saw Monsters University, the Pixar film, at my daughter’s school on a recent Friday night. I’d never seen Monsters Inc., so barely knew the characters. I enjoyed it, though I missed some dialogue; sometimes the audience was louder than the film.

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