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Under the Radar

The Partially Inspiring 'Million Dollar Arm'

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Million Dollar Arm (out now on Blu-ray and DVD) is almost one of those standard feel-good, overcome-the-odds sports movies but there's just enough weird real-life twists to interest anyone not exactly looking to be inspired. The case says "From the Studio That Brought You Remember the Titans and Miracle," but Million Dollar Arm (also based on a true story) doesn't have the triumphant climax featured in those movies.

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Maybe this is even more an inspirational business story than it is a sports story. Agent JB Bernstein is having a tough time getting his own company off the ground and losing marquee clients to bigger and richer agencies. On the verge of shutting his doors, he sees both a cricket match and Britain's Got Talent while flipping channels and has an idea: hold a nationwide talent competition in India to find cricket players with the stuff to pitch in major-league baseball.

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If you pitched that plot for a fiction film, no one would bit because it's so unbelievable. Bernstein did hold a competition in India and did sign two young athletes (Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel) who returned to the USA and trained with legendary pitching coach Tom House before signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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The fact that neither has yet pitched in the bigs doesn't really detract from the movie. Jon Hamm is a little weird as a leading man but he makes sure what could be a boring part is at least a little bit edgy. Bill Paxton is appropriately dubious as the pitching coach and Alan Arkin admirably snores his way through his part as an aging baseball scout who travels to India to assist in the search.

There's a great score by A.R. Rahman and India looks as fantastic as always during the film's first half.  Million Dollar Arm isn't nearly as inspirational as the Disney logo might lead you to believe and it's all the better for that.

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