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Laramie Movie Scope:
Million Dollar Arm

Who wants to be a millionaire baseball player?

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 18, 2014 -- Although this film is based on a true story, it looks as if the facts were smashed to a paste which was then molded into the exact shape of a typical sports underdog story. It is heavy-handed to be sure, but the formula does work in the end.

The basic story is based on a couple of pitchers from India who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates major league baseball team, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. They were selected through a series of nutty all-subcontinent roving tryouts called “Million Dollar Arm” engineered by sports agent J.B. Bernstein (played by Jon Hamm of “The Town”) and his partner, Aash (Aasif Mandvi of “The Internship”).

The idea behind the competition is not only to find new baseball talent, but to attract new Major League Baseball fans, much in the way the NBA got fans in China when Yao Ming played for the Houston Rockets. After all, there are over one billion people in India, so there should be more than a few strong throwing arms, and they've also got a huge, untapped number of sports fans. Bernstein and Aash are desperate for new sports clients. The Million Dollar Arm plan is born of that desperation.

Some of the movie's best scenes have to do with the clash of cultures. Bernstein is like a fish out of water in India where business is conducted a differently than it is in the states, where personal priorities and the pace of life are also quite different. There also seems to be relaxed attitude towards what we would call bribery, but what the Indians regard as a kind of informal money-based facilitation of business and governmental operations. Baseball scout Ray Poitevint (played by Alan Arkin of “Argo”) also provides some comic relief. He seems to be able to scout and promote baseball in his sleep, and still do it better than anyone else.

The basic idea of the pitching contest is flawed. The idea is to recruit cricket players, but the pitching motion in Cricket is quite different than it is in baseball. It turns out the best pitchers in India come from other sports. One is a javelin thrower. The winners of the contest are, Rinku Singh (played by Suraj Sharma of “Life of Pi”) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal of “Slumdog Millionaire”).

The fish out of water theme continues when Rinku and Dinesh, along with interpreter, and baseball fanatic, Amit (Pitobash of “Shanghai”) move to America for baseball training. Rinku and Dinesh are from small villages in India and do not know how to navigate modern life in Los Angeles. They all end up staying at Bernstein's house. Bernstein, a bachelor, has no idea how to handle the situation. He is busy trying to land a wealthy client, football player Popo (Rey Maualuga, an NFL player). He neglects the two pitchers, who need his support and attention.

Finally, in desperation, Bernstein begins to nurture and support Rinku and Dinesh, who are training to be baseball pitchers in L.A. under the direction of pitching coach Tom House (Bill Paxton of “2 Guns”). Bernstein, who is a self-centered jerk, is “all about the deal.” He finally begins to mellow out and become a nicer person, partly under the influence of his girlfriend, Brenda (Lake Bell of “In a World”). Sounds a lot like the plot of “Jerry Maguire,” doesn't it?

It all ends pretty much the way you would expect it to. There is a very effective emotional speech by Amit to the two pitchers just before the movie's climax. In addition to Madhur Mittal, the other “Slumdog Millionaire” connection in this film is the music composer, A.R. Rahman. The acting in this film is solid, with a lot of help from the supporting roles. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)