1. What’s it about?
A sports agent named JB Bernstein (kind of a “Jerry McGuire” type) finds that his client roster has pretty much vanished due to athletes retiring or signing with bigger, more powerful agencies; he and his partner are looking for a new approach when Bernstein gets the idea to look for raw pitching talent among the cricket players in India; he stages a reality TV show and finds two finalists, Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh. When he brings them to America to train for an eventual pro try-out, he learns that his all-business approach doesn’t work, that his young recruits, far from home in a strange country, need emotional support in order to do their best. As Bernstein gradually embraces his role as surrogate father, he finds that his emotional world is opening up in other ways, culminating in a new relationship with the smart and pretty medical student who rents his guest house.
2. Will I like it?
Most likely, if you like movies about people. The story is compelling and, for lack of a better word, heartwarming, without being cloying, sappy or manipulative. There’s no schmaltz to it. Jon Hamm plays a character who is the diametrical opposite of Don Draper, and does an excellent job of it. He is completely believable in the role, and has solid support from the rest of the cast.
3. Will my kids like it?
Older kids (maybe 10 and up) will. The storyline is pretty straightforward, and the actors are all very appealing and interesting. Younger kids (say, 6 and under) may not follow the story as well, and it may not hold their interest.
4. How is the acting?
The performances are excellent across the board, especially Lake Bell as Brenda and Aasif Mandvi as Aash, JB’s business partner. Bill Paxton has some nice moments as USC pitching coach Tom House, and Alan Arkin steals every scene he’s in as cantankerous scout Ray Poitevint, but most of the hard work is done by the Indian cast; Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) are the heart of the movie, while Pitobash lends solid comedic support playing JB’s Indian assistant and translator, Amit.
5. The poster says it’s based on a true story; how much of it is actually true?
According to the real JB Bernstein and Rinku Singh, it’s very accurate, even down to the costumes. The story was covered extensively on ESPN and other networks at the time it happened, and when the film began production it was going to be a documentary. There were some minor events that were rearranged or compressed for dramatic or storytelling purposes, and minor characters who are composites of multiple people, but all of the major story points are completely accurate, many of them having been captured on video by the real Amit.
6. Is there anything inappropriate for kids?
Million Dollar Arm is an old-style Disney movie, in other words, a movie made for the whole family to see, not just for kids OR adults. There are some scenes that imply adult activities will happen or have happened off-screen. There’s one scene where a character inadvertently gets drunk and vomits, some mild language and that’s about it. There’s zero violence, no gratuitous vulgarity, no explosions, car crashes, fistfights or gunplay. Instead there is intelligent conversation and people who act like people rather than action figures, people who solve their problems by hard work and cooperation, and watching them do it is interesting.
7. When’s the best time for a bathroom break?
You probably won’t need one. It’s only two hours long. If you need to go, you can pretty much do so at any time, as there aren’t really a lot of complicated plot twists, it’s more of a character-driven story. If you miss something, you’ll pick it up quickly from context. You’ll know when the big moments are coming.
8. I don’t care about baseball; why would I want to see a movie about it?
It’s not about baseball. It’s not a sports movie. It’s a “fish out of water” story and a “family is where you find it” story; the movie is about an American trying to do business in India, two Indians trying to adapt to life in America, and one man’s personal growth from self-absorbed businessman to well-rounded family man. Baseball is a central part of the film, but it’s not what the movie’s about.
9. Do I need to stay after the credits?
No, there’s no extra scene at the end. You’ll want to stay though the first half of the credits to see the slideshow of photos of the real Rinku, Dinesh, Amit, Brenda and JB Bernstein, photos taken during many of the key events portrayed in the film.