A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Million Dollar Arm is based on the true story of an independent sports agent (Jon Hamm) and his business partner, who came up with an idea to attract Indian athletes to try out for the chance to become Major League Baseball pitchers. It's a typical feel-good sports flick but is much more appropriate for tweens than the majority of movies in the genre. There's little language (infrequent insults like "jerk," "stupid") and no violence, but there are some references to the main character's sex life, including a few kisses and a morning-after scene that's referred to euphemistically a few times as him "spending the night." Characters who aren't used to drinking overdo it at a party and end up getting sick as a result. Young viewers will learn a bit about Indian culture, geography, the popular sport of cricket, and -- of course -- America's favorite pastime, baseball.
What's the story?
MILLION DOLLAR ARM is based on the true story of independent sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and his business partner, Aash (Aasif Mandvi), who face financial calamity when they lose an A-list client. Unsure what to do change their fortunes, Aash -- who's of Indian descent -- says he's going to go home and relax by watching cricket, a sport J.B. thinks is ridiculous. But one night of channel surfing between cricket and Britain's Got Talent gives J.B. the idea of a lifetime: producing a talent show in India to discover whether any of the nation's many cricket players have what it takes to be the first Indian players in Major League Baseball.
Is it any good?
Hamm is well chosen to play a slick agent who's hoping that his idea of finding the first Indian baseball players to reach the major leagues will lead to a big payday. Hamm knows how to play charming but unlikable characters, and J.B. -- for most of the movie -- is just that: a man making a lot of shiny promises he then has to scramble to deliver. The actor has good chemistry with everyone, from Mandvi (who, as always, is effortlessly amusing) to cheery tenant/love interest Lake Bell to the trio of grateful, confused, and hardworking young Indians that his character brings back to the States.
Despite the standout performances by the MLB hopefuls -- Life of Pi star Suraj Sharma is quite magnetic and will hopefully get more roles, while Madhur Mittal is evocative as the broodier, more thoughtful athlete, Dinesh -- their story is secondary to J.B.'s. Which is kind of too bad, since it's their life-changing journey, their courage, their "fish out of water" tale that's most interesting. In addition to the two players, there's Darshan Jariwala, who plays Vivek, the comic relief of a pint-sized Indian baseball fan who hopes to coach baseball full time. While undeniably sweet and funny, his character occasionally feels cartoonishly cute. Overall this is a fine family sports drama with a feel-good message. It's just a shame the focus is on the agent and not the players.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of sports dramas based on true stories. What's so compelling about this one? How is it similar to and different from other sports movies you've seen?
What is Million Dollar Arm's message about sports as a business opportunity versus a game players should love? Do you think most professional athletes truly love to play?
How well do you think Indian culture is represented in the movie? What did you learn about Indian traditions, sports interests, and pop culture? Do you think any of the characters are caricatures and/or stereotypes?
- In theaters: May 16, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: October 7, 2014
- Cast: Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, Bill Paxton
- Director: Craig Gillespie
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and martial arts, Misfits and underdogs
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild language and some suggestive content
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.