“Baseball isn’t just about business. You should have fun, too.”
One of my fondest memories growing up is tossing a baseball in the yard with my dad. There were days when I would toss the ball against the large brick side of our house (and a few times hitting a window or two). These memories are what make movies like Million Dollar Arm a fun, family film. It reminds us of how baseball has planned a role in our lives and relationships. Million Dollar Arm has the potential to be one of those Disney family film classics. It’s compelling story that is graceful and kid-friendly.
Jon Hamm (Mad Men) is JB Bernstein, a sports agent who is a little too self-centered. He is unlikable go-getter and known womanizer. He has branched out on his own, and his cliental is close to nonexistence. He comes up with the idea of hosting a game show in India called “Million Dollar Arm” (which is based on a true story from 2007). The idea is to find a cricket player who could be trained to be a major league baseball player.
Two young men leave behind their families and the simple village they called home for Los Angeles. Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) is Dinesh and Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) is Rinku. These two young men, along with their translator Amit (Bollywood actor Pitobash) are introduced to a whole new culture. LA is very, very different from the village they call home. These young men grew up in poverty. Now they are sitting in the lap of luxury. To say the least, they experience culture shock.
JB puts them up in a hotel, but that night, he has to come and retrieve them. There were too many buttons and levers, including a fire alarm. They don’t speak English, though they use MTV to learn it. They know very little about baseball, much less at the major league level.
They are fish out of water.
And what makes matters worse is that they feel abandoned by JB once they are back in America. JB goes right back into his way of living. He goes after a football player to reclaim as a client. Despite the fact that JB returns to the parties and the revolving door of models, the young Indians still remain loyal to him.
It takes Brenda (Lake Bee) an attractive and smart medical student who rents JB’s guesthouse for JB to see the error of his ways. He realizes, as the quote above suggests, that it cannot be about business. The young men need to have fun in order to be successful. Baseball has to become their passion for it to be fruitful. Once he has this aha moment, he becomes a father figure to Rinku and Dinesh. The transformation that takes place the young men’s game mirrors that of the transformation in JB. As is predictable, JB moves from being arrogant and self-centered to being compassionate and other-centered.
The film is not going to win any major awards, but it is watchable. It is fun and friendly. It is welcoming and warm in that it reminds us of ourselves and our own relationships. It reminds us that we need to be a little less concerned with what’s best for us and more concerned with others. When JB makes the transition from being self-centered to other-centered, he transitioned from business to fun, and in the end it pays off. Both for his business, but also for his own personal life. He becomes a better person.