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Million Dollar Arm (2014)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/7/2014

All Ratings out of


Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/6/2014

The box for the Million Dollar Arm Blu-ray Disc states "From The Studio That Brought You Remember The Titans and Miracle". If they had had more room, Disney would have also listed The Rookie, Invincible, Cool Runnings, and Secretariat. Yes, Disney loves sports movies which are based on real-life individuals or teams, especially those which faced some kind of adversity. They might-as-well open a separate division and call it "Underdog Sports Movies" or something like that. Each of the movies listed featured someone who was battling against the odds to prove themselves, all wrapped up in a story which is meant to move and inspire the viewer. Million Dollar Arm, based on a real event which took place just six years ago, strives to join the long-line of Disney sports tear-jerkers.

Million Dollar Arm tells the true story of sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm). He and his partner, Aash (Aasif Mandvi) has left a big agency and gone out on their own, only to meet with less than satisfactory results -- They can't land a big client. Desperate for a win, JB gets an idea. He suggests going to India to find athletes with the potential to be Major League Baseball pitches. JB figures that someone who plays Cricket could adapt their style for baseball. He convinces baseball mogul Chang (Tzi Ma) to bankroll the project and JB heads to India. There, he meets Amit (Pitobash), a local baseball fanatic who is willing to lend a hand and he is joined by American baseball scout Ray (Alan Arkin). After touring the country and holding a contest, which is billed as "Million Dollar Arm", JB has two finalists, Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Suraj Sharma). He takes the two boys to Los Angeles to begin their training. As Dinesh and Rinku marvel at the Western World, JB begins to wonder if he's made a big mistake.

Despite the fact that they tackle a wide variety of sports -- baseball, football, hockey, etc. -- the Disney sports movies aren't exactly known for their diversity. It often feels as if the same blueprint is being used for each movie -- We are introduced to a person or team who is an underdog, we then meet the person who believes in them and motivates them and we then watch them attempt to fulfill their dream. In addition to this, Disney seemingly loves for their sports movies to be based on true stories and, if nothing else, Million Dollar Arm has a unique one. First, we have a non-athlete -- JB -- who is down on his luck and needs a win. He is our first underdog. We then meet Dinesh and Rinku, two young men who are suddenly presented with a dream that they didn't even know that they had. The film combines the traditional sports movie cliches with an international flair and a fish-out-of-water story. And a movie like this wouldn't be complete without a love interest, so JB is attracted to his neighbor, Brenda (Lake Bell). Million Dollar Arm isn't exactly brimming over with originality, but there's enough here to make it interesting.

The problem with the film is that there is no tension whatsoever. The crux of the sports movie has to be a small, even if it is minute, worry that the hero/heroes won't achieve their goal. That doesn't arise in this film. I'm sure that some of you think that statement should have been accompanied by a spoiler warning tag, but I assure you that it's not necessary. Million Dollar Arm doesn't even seem to be interested in creating tension. From the outset, we feel certain that JB will find someone in India, else there wouldn't be a movie. Dinesh and Rinku are the only two competitors to which we are introduced, so we feel certain that they are shoe-ins. Back in the U.S., there are some small speed bumps, but they are very small, the worst of which is a cut finger which require two stitches. Compared to the car wrecks and injuries which we've seen in other films of this ilk, Million Dollar Arm seems to be on cruise control. The scenes in which JB get angry don't even have any fire to them.

Director Craig Gillespie, who helmed Lars and the Real Girl, has made a truly uneven film with Million Dollar Arm. He does a great job of bringing these characters to life and making us like them. We want to see everyone here succeed and we enjoy how JB takes Dinesh and Rinku under his wing. And yet, isn't this a drama? Then where is the drama? The movie is never boring per se, but it does absolutely nothing to grab the viewer and make them want to go on this journey. I've said this before and it's very appropriate here -- A swing and a miss.

Million Dollar Arm did pique my interest when naan was mentioned on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look great, most notably the greens and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image has a nice amount of depth which is evident in the landscape shots and the picture is rarely soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The first thing which jumps out at you is the amount of subwoofer bass which is generated by the film's score. The surround sound effects really come to life during the crowd scenes in India. We also get some nice stereo effects which alert us to sounds coming from off-screen.

The Million Dollar Arm Blu-ray Disc brings us a handful of extras. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 2 minutes. There is also an "Alternate Ending" (1 minute) which isn't all that different. "Training Camp" (6 minutes) shows Sharma and Mittal learning how to pitch from a former minor league player. "Their Story" (3 minutes) offers an interview from the real Bernstein, Rinku, and Dinesh, who comment on their real-life tale. "Million Dollar Music by A.R. Rahman" (3 minutes) profiles the composer and shows him at work. The extras are rounded out by a 2-minute reel of OUTTAKES.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long