Friday, May 16, 2014

Million Dollar Arm Movie Review

Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper J.B. Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm

Million Dollar Bust

It's been almost 20 years since Cuba Gooding, Jr. won an Oscar for asking Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) to "Show me the money!" Jerry did, and audiences rejoiced to the tune of $270 million... the ninth highest grossing film of 1996. Two decades is an eternity in "Hollywood time," but not long enough to trick this critic into thinking Craig Gillespie's Million Dollar Arm is 1/10th the movie that Jerry Maguire was. Not even close. Million Dollar Arm tells the tale of a me-first sports agent, who has to fly halfway across the world to find someone who's desperate enough to be taken advantage of, before staging a make-or-break tryout... in a strip mall parking lot. What's not to love?

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Based on a true story, Disney's "Million Dollar Arm" follows JB Bernstein, a once-successful sports agent who now finds himself edged out by bigger, slicker competitors. He and his partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) will have to close their business down for good if JB doesn't come up with something fast. Late one night, while watching cricket being played in India on TV, JB comes up with an idea so radical it just might work. Why not go there and find the next baseball pitching sensation? Setting off for Mumbai with nothing but a gifted but cantankerous scout (Alan Arkin) in tow, JB stages a televised, nationwide competition called "Million Dollar Arm" where 40,000 hopefuls compete before two 18-year-old finalists, Rinku and Dinesh (Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal), emerge as winners. JB brings them back to the United States to train with legendary pitching coach Tom House (Bill Paxton). The goal: get the boys signed to a major league team. Not only is the game itself difficult to master, but life in the U.S. with a committed bachelor makes things even more complicated - for all of them. While Rinku and Dinesh learn the finer points of baseball and American culture, they in turn teach JB the true meaning of teamwork and commitment. Ultimately, what began as a purely commercial venture becomes something more and leads JB to find the one thing he was never looking for at all -a family.

What’s Best: I'm a huge fan of Hamm as Mad Men's Don Draper, but he has to try to avoid being typecast with less than 10 episodes left in his TV series. To his credit, Hamm oozes charm (even with his character's many, many shortcomings.) He carries the film early on; but it's relative newcomers Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) who steal the rest of the show with boyish charm and modesty. Kudos also to Pitobash Tripathy for turning an unpaid internship into a breakout Hollywood career. Mark my words: You're gonna see a lot of this guy in the next few years.

What’s Not: Oscar winner Arkin is wasted as an over-the-hill sports scout who uses his ears to determine talent. Speaking of useless, I'm still trying to figure out what Aash does/did as JB's business partner... It sure wasn't work. That's two great actors (Arkin, Mandvi) with basically nothing to do. Not cool.

I've developed a boyish crush on Lake Bell of late, but I can't imagine her character falling for the aged "bad boy" who wouldn't stay around for 10 seconds if he had money, etc. That said, she's a joy to watch... especially interacting with the boys.

Best Line: JB asks Brenda (Bell) 'How do you know all this?' in reference to her gross advantage in being aware of what's going on with Rinku and Dinesh. Hmm, maybe if you stuck around for a minute or two, you'd see for yourself. Yelling 'hustle up' every morning and night, in between power bars and pizzas doesn't make you a good surrogate guardian, yet alone a competent sports agent. Sorry to harp on it so much; but JB Bernstein has to go down as one of the worst Hollywood "heroes" ever. The fact that he doesn't change gears until the very end of an overly long (120 minutes) movie is enough reason to not like it at all.

Overall: Perhaps if there never was a Jerry Maguire, then I wouldn't mind Million Dollar Arm so much. It's relatively harmless, appeals to certain demographics and attracts families to the box office (assuming there isn't a Marvel character debuting this weekend.) Unfortunately, it tries so hard to be like Jerry Maguire, it forgets what made Jerry & co. so likable to begin with. Million Dollar Arm lacks charm (outside of Rinku & Dinesh) and originality, and you simply have to possess both to be successful in this genre. Fun to watch (while in India) this movie strikes out back home. Don't let the cute wrapping fool ya.