Based on a true story, this is one of those relentlessly uplifting Disney movies that mixes comedy and emotion to inspire and move the audience. Thankfully, it also has a very smart screenplay by Tom McCarthy (Win Win) that draws out some resonant themes while tackling cross-culture issues with wit and honesty. This makes it easy to identify with the sparky characters who are trying to reinvent themselves.
Sports manager JB (Jon Hamm) certainly needs a reinvention. He has lost all of his high-profile clients and now needs to find the next big thing. Perceived as washed-up, he has some difficulty convincing someone to fund his crazy plan to stage a talent competition in India to find baseball talent among the local cricket players. With the help of his easily distracted assistant Aash (Aasif Mandvi) and cantankerous ex-coach Ray (Alan Arkin), he narrows the candidates down to two potential stars: Rinku and Danesh (Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma and Slumdog Millionaire's Madhur Mittal). After JB brings them back to Los Angeles, along with over-eager interpreter Amit (Pitobash), renegade coach Tom (Bill Paxton) has to whip them into shape to see if they can attract interest from the big-league teams.
While the film continually threatens to indulge in smiley culture-clash slapstick, McCarthy's script continually grounds the action in the characters, who emerge as fully rounded people who are engagingly unpredictable. The cast is earthy and natural, anchored ably by Hamm as a likeable guy who remains self-absorbed even though he's desperate, and who takes a long time to learn his rather simple lesson. His chemistry with Lake Bell (as the plain-talking tenant in his pool house) is superbly messy. And ace scene-stealers Mandvi and Arkin bring plenty of comic relief to their hilarious roles.
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Hockey star Derek (Johnson) is tired of being treated like a has-been, and is trying to prove he still deserves the nickname "Tooth Fairy", because he knocks his opponents' teeth out. But while Derek tries to settle down with girlfriend Carly (Judd) and her kids (Ellison and Whitlock), hot upstart Mick (Sheckler) is stealing the spotlight. Then Derek finds out he has to fill in for the real Tooth Fairy for two weeks, overseen by fairy godmother Lily (Andrews) and a caseworker (Merchant) with wing envy.
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Mark Ciardi, Matt Collier and Vince Papale - Mark Ciardi, Matt Collier and Vince Papale Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 1st Annual U.S. Sports Film Festival opening night party at the Loews Hotel - Inside Thursday 23rd October 2008
As a member of the fictional Boston Rebels, Joe Kingman (Johnson) is fixated on two things - winning and Elvis. His swanky Beantown bachelor pad is laden with memorabilia -- both his own and the King's -- and he loves his millionaire athlete lifestyle. One day, there's a knock on the door. It's a young girl named Peyton (Pettis), and she claims that Joe is her dad. Taken aback, the QB contacts his agent, Stella Peck (Kyra Sedgwick), and begs her to straighten out this mess. A little backwards glancing confirms paternity -- at least for the time being -- and Joe finds himself juggling the demands of the playoffs, the ribbing of his teammates, and the needs of his sudden offspring. When she expresses an interest in studying ballet, Joe sends the child to Monique Vasquez's (Sanchez) elite school. Yet newfound fatherhood is taking its toll, and just Joe's luck, the championship game is coming up.
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The primary shortcoming of the film is that it takes three or four separate stories and loosely strings them together, while leaving out perhaps the most interesting story of all. Granted, the centerpiece of the film is how a high school science teacher makes his way to the major leagues, but this story seems rushed and almost an afterthought by the time we get to it. Instead, the filmmakers take up too much time early on relaying a tenuously related fable about nuns and the origins of baseball in Jim's rural Texas town, and then mill around in Morris's childhood, focusing on his strained relationship with the stern father that did not support his dream.
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The premise is simple: a high school ugly duckling named Dizzy (Road Trip's DJ Qualls) turns it around and starts fresh at a new school, strutting like a badass and making a new personality for himself as a guy named Gil. The supposedly funny twist is that he gets his education in cool while hanging at a prison, taking lessons in toughness from Eddie Griffin (wasted in his short appearance), learning how to dance like a hipster from Horatio Sanz (also wasted), and getting a makeover from the stereotypical cross-dressing cons in the pen. In each scene, Decter and screenwriter David Kendall (big blame goes to him too) want to get right to the funny immediately - the only problem is that each attempt results in a vacant black hole.
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Miracle's focuses falls heavily on coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), both in how he chooses his players and how he re-trains them to play his way en route to the winter Olympic games in Lake Placid, N.Y. Brooks preaches team chemistry to his players, but it's the cast that catches on. Miracle isn't a movie of individuals, it's the perfect combination of unknown actors and veteran stars.
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