***Disclosure: I received an all expense paid trip to Hollywood to cover various Disney/ABC TV events. All opinions are 100% honest and have not been influenced in any way.***
Recently, I was in beautiful Hollywood, California to attend the Million Dollar Arm World Premiere at the glorious El Capitan Theatre. The pre-party was tailgate style, and included food from Subway, Wonderful Pistachios, and the Hollywood legend, Pink's Hot Dogs, just to name a few. (You can check out my "Green Carpet" experience HERE.)
Once the festivities were winding down and the sun was setting on Hollywood Boulevard, it was time to make our way into the theatre to see the movie that the sports world has been buzzing about, "Million Dollar Arm". Imagine my excitement when I realized that not only did I have one of the best seats in the house, we were also seated among the actors who made this film so special. (Madhur Mittal who plays Dinesh Patel was a few seats away, and the hilarious and talented Pitobash who portrays the quirky Indian baseball coach, Amit, was directly behind me.) It was unreal, and the whole theatre buzzed with excitement.
Now before I get into my review of the film, please take a minute to view this featurette. It will give you a feel for what this movie is all about. (Hint: It's about SO much more than baseball!)
"Million Dollar Arm" is based off of the real life story of sports agent, J.B. Bernstein (portrayed by the fabulous Jon Hamm), who is rather down on his luck. His agency, Seven Figure Management, is in danger of going under, and it's up to J.B. and his friend and business partner Aash (played by Aasif Mandvi) to come up with a plan of action that can save their failing business.
Things don't look very promising when they lose their biggest potential client, so J.B. is forced to get creative and think outside of the box. One evening, while flipping through the channels and feeling particularly hopeless, he sees a game of Cricket being played. Now let me point out, J.B. hates Cricket. He thinks it's the stupidest game ever invented. But seeing the "bowlers" throw the ball gives him an idea. Something huge. Something that's never been done before in the history of sports.
J.B. wants to go to India in search of the next great Major League Baseball pitcher hopefuls. There's a hurdle they must overcome, though. A pretty BIG one, at that. In India, no one knows a thing about American baseball, let alone ever thrown a baseball. Oh, and there is also a pretty extreme language barrier, since at that point in time, J.B. did not speak a word of Hindi.
Mr. Bernstein somehow gained the support of some very powerful investors, and was given a one year time frame to make his plan come to fruition.He would travel to India and audition kids for "Million Dollar Arm", a competition where the winner would receive $100,000 American dollars, and the top 2 contenders would travel to the United States to learn to play baseball. At the end of that year, they had to be ready for MLB try-outs.
One year. Could he travel to India, audition thousands and thousands of hopefuls, and train them to pitch well enough to secure MLB try-outs within this insane time frame? It sounds impossible, right? I mean, there are kids here in the United States that spend their entire childhoods and teen years playing baseball, with the dream of making the Big Leagues someday. Even for these kids, who have been exposed to the sport their whole lives, this dream isn't an easy one to achieve. How would some kids from India, who have never played the game, be ready for try-outs in just 12 short months?
After encountering several hiccups along the way, J.B. finally finds 2 potential candidates, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. (played by Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma and Slumdog Millionaire's Madhur Mittal) These boys have one heck of an arm, topping 80MPH on a consistent basis. (You'll want to see Rinku's beginning pitches. He was an expert Javelin thrower, so his pitching style was....unique....to say the least!)
Rinku and Dinesh came from small, rural farming villages, and had never been away from their homes or families. In India, most people never really leave their homes, and they often take over the family businesses once they come of age. Family is the glue that holds these communities together. Of course when they have to leave for America, there are plenty of tears, since these young men would be entering a whole new world where literally everything is foreign to them. I cried along with their mothers as they said their goodbyes. (Yep, have some tissues handy. You will need them!)
Rinku and Dinesh end up living with J.B. in his LA bachelor pad, and here they discover things like cable TV, pizza, and even music by Eminem and Keith Urban. The boys quickly catch on to the English language, thanks to Amit, their "coach" and translator, so communication improves greatly. Seeing these boys learn the American way of life is inspiring and at times quite amusing.
Rinku and Dinesh have a vigorous training schedule, and work hard to improve the speed and accuracy of their pitches. These boys spend hours and hours every day working hard to make Mr. Bernstein proud. J.B., however, gets blinded by dollar signs with other potential deals, and ends up neglecting these boys who have come to see him as a father figure of sorts. He even gets angry with them when their performance isn't what he thinks it should be. What he doesn't realize is that Rinku and Dinesh want nothing more than to make him proud, and that disappointing him is their greatest fear.
Yes, J.B. is a bit of a jerk. At first. You see, he's never really had to think about anyone other than himself. And as a sports agent, everything was always about the money, never the bigger picture. While J.B. is definitely a bit shallow, he is still likable since viewers see glimpses of a better man throughout the beginning of the film.
With the help of Brenda, his tenant and eventual love-interest, (played by the stunning Lake Bell) J.B. starts to soften up a bit. He starts seeing these boys for exactly what they are, just a couple of great kids who are far from home and want nothing more than to please him. They see him as a surrogate Dad of sorts, and he is the only family they have here in the United States. So J.B. realizes his responsibility to these boys is about more than turning them into baseball players, it's about being there for them and caring about them as people during their life-changing journey.
I won't add any spoilers or tell you how this journey ends. The conclusion to "Million Dollar Arm" is something that must be seen to be appreciated. (And trust me...You're going to want to see this.)
What I will say is that this film is absolutely amazing. It's about so much more than baseball. In fact, you don't even have to like baseball to love this movie. Sure, it follows the amazing accomplishments of Rinku and Dinesh, who happen to be rock-star athletes. Seeing them pitch is absolutely incredible. What these boys achieved in one short year is a story that needs to be told, far and wide. These kids are the very definition of courage, and I feel so blessed to have met them. (You can check out my interview with the REAL J.B., Rinku and Dinesh HERE.)
I would have to say one of the biggest themes of this film would have to be realizing the importance of family. Whether it's missing family while living in a foreign land or discovering that family is about so much more than blood relation, the love of family is a basic, human necessity.
It's also about becoming a better person through the successes of others. This journey was quite enlightening for J.B. Bernstein himself, and watching him evolve from a selfish, often one-dimensional character into a compassionate, caring human being was also quite inspirational.
And finally, this movie teaches us that no dream, regardless of how impossible it may appear, is out of reach. With hard work, dedication, and a lot of heart, dreams DO come true. Just look at Rinku and Dinesh. They're living proof of that, and are now role models for kids in their home country of India as well as here in the United States.
So if you're looking for a movie that has everything from laughter to tears and everything in-between that's perfect for the entire family, definitely head to your local theaters to see "Million Dollar Arm". This inspirational tale is sure to become a classic thanks to the courage of the REAL J.B., Rinku, and Dinesh, as well as the amazing portrayal by this amazing cast.
Million Dollar Arm is in theaters today!
You can follow "Million Dollar Arm" on social media to stay on top of the latest news, clips and more:
Website and Mobile Site: www.Disney.com/MillionDollarArm
Like on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MillionDollarArm
Follow on Twitter: @DisneyPictures
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I'm Brandy, a happily married, proud Mom of 3 amazing kids. If you're interested in building a working relationship, please feel free to e-mail me at: NewlyCrunchyMamaOf3@gmail.com
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