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Film / Million Dollar Arm

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"[on phone] How fast do they pitch in cricket? [pause] Fine, bowl. How fast do they bowl in cricket?"

A 2014 Disney film starring Jon Hamm as J.B. Bernstein, Bill Paxton as Tom House, Lake Bell as Brenda, Suraj Sharma as Rinku Singh, Madhur Mittal as Dinesh Patel, Pitobash Tripathy as Amit Roham, and Alan Arkin as Ray Poitevint.

Sports agent J.B. Bernstein just lost his last hot prospect to a bigger, more powerful agency. His small group is broke, and his partner can't think of any untapped markets that are left for new talent. That is until J.B. happens to watch that silly game of "cricket" his friend is always talking about...

Based on a True Story, Million Dollar Arm follows J.B. as he travels to India to find some new prospects to represent in the States, as well as bring the lucrative branding of baseball to the billion-plus market of the Indian subcontinent.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Manoj Shukla, the third finalist in the competition. Although he had the most "raw talent" according to the real J.B., the fact that he had no legal records prevented him from obtaining a passport going to the United States with Rinku and Dinesh. J.B. kept trying to get him into MLB, but little technicalities kept tripping them up until Manoj turned eighteen and was too old to compete. Unsurprisingly, the film cut him out to keep the narrative streamlined and optimistic.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Rinku's family. In real life they were unsupportive of him giving up school and an army career to play baseball; in the film, they are following him every step of the way and celebrating his success on the field.
  • Adaptational Villainy: J.B. and Will Chang, though the real J.B. admits that Jon Hamm played him to a tee. J.B. tries to curry favor with an athlete during a party at the boys' expense, and ignores the fact that they are homesick. Will is portrayed as a Corrupt Corporate Executive who shows no regard for the boys' welfare and only for Million Dollar Arm.
    • One notable change is when one of the boy's hands gets injured days before a try out; in the book, Rinku is angry at himself for injuring his hand with a steak knife that he didn't need to use. In the film, J.B. gets Anger Born of Worry that makes him out to be a Jerkass because he's worried the injury will affect Rinku's ability to pitch.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: J.B. rejects the youths' apologies after his attempt to make a deal as Popo's agent fell apart:
    J.B.: You're sorry that I just lost my biggest client in years, because you guys decided to wander off and trespass on someone's private property, swim in their fountain, and — oh yeah, oh yeah — puke on me twice!
  • Bollywood Nerd: The diminutive Amit, a teacher with dreams of becoming a baseball coach who teaches seven Mumbai college students about baseball, and works for free with J.B. and Ray Poitevint.
  • Bollywood Starlet Dance Number: A number of young Indian ladies dance in the background during the finals at Mumbai.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Coach Tom House. He has unusual methods, but he turns Rinku and Dinesh into talented pitchers. Ray also counts as one, given he can identify pitch speeds with his ears.
  • Chew-Out Fake-Out: Dinesh buys a truck for his father with the money he won from the competition, and tells his dad that he has to go to America to train. Before his father had forbidden him from competing, telling him he had work, and for a moment it looks like Dinesh is going to receive a smack for his troubles. Instead, he receives a hug, and his dad tells him "You are going to do well in America."
  • Closest Thing We Got: In trying to find athletes to recruit for the Million Dollar Arm competition, and mostly looking for cricket bowlers, Dinesh (a former field hockey player, now truck driver) and Rinku (a javelin thrower) are the best of the fielded candidates.
  • Determinator: J.B. and Amit: J.B. despite the hassle of recruiting boys in a foreign country. Amit is the only Indian J.B. meets who knows about and loves baseball, who offers to work for J.B. without pay and serves as the boy's translator in America.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Dinesh Patel, after spending time with the minors and a brief 2009 MLB season followed by a less successful 2010 season, returned to India after the Pirates released him in December 2010. He decided to finish school, taught baseball in Delhi, and helped the village boys prepare for the second season of Million Dollar Arm, helping to renovate his family's home, arranging for his sister's wedding, and helping his family to gather respect and self-esteem.
  • Gilligan Cut: More of a Gilligan Pan, but when J.B. chastises Ray for always nodding off and not even watching the try-outs, Ray claims to be able to hear the speed of the pitches, much to J.B.'s disbelief. Cue J.B. being socked by a wild ball.
    Ray: That was about a 43.
    [digital readout says 43mph]
  • Felony Misdemeanor: In real life, several government officials tried to arrest J.B.'s team for not having approval from a local general to set up the batting cage. The general, angry at being woken up for permission, shouted about arresting foreigners for playing baseball.
  • Indians Love Cricket: In-universe for the film, and in real life. Converting an enormous market of cricket-lovers to baseball-lovers was a huge selling-point for the agency to their investors. Too bad their two star prospects both hate cricket.
  • Hidden Depths: The boys in addition to pitching well are talented Indian cooks. Towards the end of the film, with Brenda's help, they make J.B. an elaborate feast.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: For Rinku and Dinesh, practically everything in America, from the elevators to availability of fast food. They take interest in how the elevator doors automatically open every time they wave their hands, like magic.
  • Must Have Caffeine: J.B. in real life. Part of the reason he was stressed in India, apart from having trouble finding a candidate and dealing with red tape, was that he couldn't find Diet Coke easily and suffered withdrawal migraines as a result.
  • Papa Wolf / Parental Substitute: J.B. ends up becoming this to the boys, as he is the closest thing they have to a parent in the United States.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Despite the fact that he is very short on cash, J.B. is dismayed to learn that the easiest way to "sidestep the system" (i.e. get things done quickly and efficiently in the notoriously slow and inefficient India) is to offer people bribes. He just mistakenly does it right in the man's own shop, very indiscreetly.
  • Shipper on Deck: Rinku and Dinesh ask if J.B. will marry Brenda, after he spends the night with her. He has to explain to them what "hooking up" is, and they cheer him on (when in actuality the boys coming from modest Indian culture would be more discreet).
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: Boy howdy. Most of the contestants in "Million Dollar Arm" can't even hit with speeds above 50 miles per hour, and they include an old man who "feels very young." J.B. is quite desperate until Rinku and Dinesh appear.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: While in the film the "Million Dollar Arm" competition is shown as a recruiting gimmick to find the most talented athletes to take back to the United States, in real life, it was actually an ongoing television program the agency produced as a commercial feature. Yes, it advertised their idea of a new pool of young athletes, but it was also content they could resell to TV networks, foreign and domestic (never a bad idea).
    • Brenda and J.B. also met long after Rinku and Dinesh came to the United States and got signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates; she also wasn't his medical school tenant but an entrepreneur he met at a party. She was added as a Love Interest for the film.
    • Some time after the movie, Rinku Singh, who spent most of his time in the Pittsburgh farm team system and several games with the Pittsburgh Pirates, signed with the WWE in 2018.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Aash makes brief mention how his twins have both been "puking a lot" recently, then later, when J.B. has Rinku and Dinesh stay briefly at Aash's house and then picks them up, Aash greets them at the door, carrying one of his sons... only for his boy to vomit right at the doorstep as they're leaving. Doubles as a Brick Joke.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Rinku and Dinesh were signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates 10 months after J.B. introduced them to American baseball, Amit is coaching a baseball team in India that hasn't lost a game in 3 years, J.B. Bernstein is married to Brenda and still moving forward with the Million Dollar Arm project.