Sunday, May 18, 2014

"Million Dollar Arm" needs more baseball and less formulaic screenwriting; Should MLB host a celebrity charity home-run hitting contest?

I like baseball movies, but “Million Dollar Arm” (directed by Craig Gillespie, written by Tom McCarthy), Disney’s latest feel-good family pseudo-comedy starring a sports agent (J Bernstein, played by Joe Hamm), doesn’t give us much ball, and seems over formulaic and overextended.  It lacks the finesse, say of “Jerry Maguire” almost two decades ago.

The film actually gives us a little basketball and pro football first.  JB is struggling as a sports agent, but comes up with a scheme, backed by investors from China, to recruit major league pitchers from India, on the theory that MLB will get a huge television market there.  In fact, this is said to be a true story.  Singh and Patel are actually in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  Will the Nationals face them next weekend in Pittsburgh?

The back theory is that cricket “bowlers” could become pitchers.  I wonder if Prince William and Harry would agree. 

JB makes a big road trip to India, going to a lot of villages, until he find two young men who can hit the mid 80s on the radar gun and throw strikes, sometimes.  He brings Rinku and Dinesh back, two young men who have never left their villages.  They have some trouble adjusting to life in LA, to say the least.

In fact, JB insists he enjoys the life of a bachelor with a too-big house, and other properties.  He’s starting to develop a relationship with one of the tenants, Brenda (Lake Bell).  Apparently, he has sometimes been expected to board or babysit OPC (other people’s children).  Now, he extends radical hospitality, putting up the two young men in his home, sometimes teaching them to party.

The screenplay creates some stakes and crises, with the help of the Chinese investors, but with relatively little real baseball.  The boys eventually reach the low 90s in their pitching speed.
Alan Arkin and Bill Paxton add some humor as the scout and pitching coach. 
It struck me that a major league team, probably the Los Angeles Dodgers or maybe the Angels, could host a “celebrity” homerun hitting contest, or maybe a pitching contest, as a charity event.  How would obviously fit men like Ashton Kutcher, Jared Padalecki, or Tom Welling fare hitting batting practice pitches?  Probably pretty well.   The road trip to India reminded me of Timo Descamps’s video “Tomorrow”, where he seems to be traveling India (or Africa, drama blog, March 27) recruiting villagers into a future in show business (although India already has Bollywood).  So add Timo, Richard Harmon, and I think Reid Ewing to the MLB charity home run hitting contest. 

Because I was in the movie, I missed the progress of the Nationals’s 6-3 victory over the Mets this afternoon.  (Cell phones off!)  After the movie, I had supper in a nearby sports bar and watched NCAA women’s softball  (OK, LSU beat Arizona 5-1, and the underhanded softball pitches were around 60 on the radar gun, with home plate much closer than in baseball).

I saw the film at the AMC Courthouse, before a pretty ample Sunday audience.

The official site is here

It needs to reported that another (different) AMC property in northern VA had a serious “copycat” incident early Sunday morning at a “Godzilla” showing (I’m not in a hurry for that), WJLA report here.   It is still a developing story.  

Picture: ballpark for the Pittsburgh Pirates, mine, 2007 visit.  

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