At the dawn of summer, chock-full of big budget blockbusters, Disney decided to throw a curveball with the low-budget sports film, Million Dollar Arm. The film tells the true story of JB Bernstein, played by John Hamm (Mad Men), a sports agent who loses a big client and is struggling to keep his agency afloat. While drinking away his sorrows with his co-worker, Aash (Aasif Mandavi), he is forced to watch a game of cricket on television. This gives JB a sliver of hope that the next big pitching talent may be in India.
Million Dollar Arm follows the now generic formula that all sports films seem to follow; taking an unconventional idea that no heavy hitters have any faith in and proving said individuals wrong and coming out on top. The film hits each and every single beat correctly but what keeps Million Dollar Arm from joining great sports films like The Blind Side, Friday Night Lights and Remember the Titans is high dramatic stakes and truly compelling characters.
Even though Million Dollar Arm showcases an interesting story, it just doesn’t have the same emotional depth that those other films have. There also isn’t a high enough risk in the film. The biggest risk in Million Dollar Arm is that these two underdogs, Rinku and Dinesh, may not be ready in time for tryouts and if they aren’t they just go back to their lives in India, which they don’t seem too displeased with.
The performances in the film are good across the board, especially from the always quirky and charismatic Lake Bell (In a World…), who plays John Hamm’s pool house tenant and love interest, Brenda. However, good performances don’t hide the fact that none of these characters are truly that interesting. There is no Leigh Anne Tuohy or Boobie Miles in the film, which makes it hard to fully invest in the characters screenwriter, Thomas McCarthy, presents us with.
Disney has a strict formula when it comes to their films and that formula is evident with Million Dollar Arm and because they have mastered this formula, in the end you will still leave the theater feeling all warm and fuzzy. This may leave most audience members feeling satisfied but Million Dollar Arm is a sports film that brings nothing new or truly compelling to the table and will be forgotten quickly in the coming summer months.