Boyd Hicklin directs this touching, though only intermittently funny and rather crass comedy about boyhood dreams and hopes falling under the wheels of middle age and responsibility.
Teddy Brown (Stephen Curry) is a thirty-five year old boy, working in a cricket shop in a cricket complex, somewhere in the suburbs of Melbourne, still harbouring dreams of one day playing under the baggy green cap of the Australian Cricket Team. As it is he manages and opens the batting for the Abbotsford Anglers. The only thing holding him back from the big time is a distinct lack of talent and a team of inflated, egotistical, heavy drinking middle-aged amateurs, with whom he has played and failed for twenty years.
At the end of another disastrous park season, Ted seizes the opportunity to sign his team up for a 3 match tour of the Indian subcontinent, enlisting the help of an unknown, star batsmen in order to dupe the sponsor, Sanjeet, into thinking his team are A-grade players. The only thing they really have going for them is a near autistic statistician and Ted’s indefatigable drive and desire to emulate his hero, Sachin Tendulkar.
As soon as the team arrives in India, things begin to unravel rapidly, with Ted’s best friends Rick (Brendan Cowell – who wrote the screenplay) and The Stav (Damon Gameau) being the main cause. While Rick is quickly and easily seduced by the colourful and chemical charms of exotic India, Stav’s ego won’t allow him to play in the same team as talented upstart, Mark (Brenton Thwaites). The rest of the team contribute about as much.
The matches themselves go about as well as can be expected, and are suitably funny, although I imagine a lot of the cricket-based slapstick tomfoolery will be lost on the, presumably female, non-cricket-savvy members of the audience.
As things on the field go from comedic to worse, off the field Ted finds himself unable to come to terms with his friends’ developing and advancing adult lives, lives that are threatening to leave him behind. He is so single-mindedly intent on getting to the final in Bombay (or is it Mumbai?) that he fails even to notice the attentions of Sanjeet’s beautiful daughter, Anjali (played by beautiful Bollywood actress Pallavi Sharda). While Ted and his team do indeed make it to Bombay, it is not at all in the way we expect, which is refreshing, and brings the film to joyous, and oddly, musical close.
Even though Save Your Legs is not American, and is not about football/baseball/basketball, it still follows the basic formula, as all sports films must. There are moments of pathos (Ted on the bank of the Ganges snapping at Rick and a peach-clad Stav); moments of humour (the obvious, though nonetheless funny, effects of Indian food on the non-Indian digestive system) and a sprinkling of tension (the obligatory final test). It also features some stunning shots of mystical India by day and night.
As an underdogs-make-good-at-their-chosen-sporting-discipline film, Save Your Legs does an admirable job of showing us something different; a different sport with different personalities in a different country. It falters slightly, in that, as a comedy, there are not as many laughs as could have been extracted from the material. Even with the almost permanent good nature of the film, the preview audience only laughed in unison a handful of times. This isn’t to say that Save Your Legs would not have worked without the comedy (it was based, after all, on the director’s own documentary about the real Abbotsford Anglers touring India), just that, at times it felt not quite sure where to place itself.
In the end, as much as I enjoyed Save Your Legs, I feel that it is destined to become (like other slight but charming Australian comedies, The Castle, The Sum of Us, The Dish) a little seen but enjoyable cult comedy favourite. The writing, production and performances are uniformly excellent, it’s just a pity they aren’t in service of something with a little more substance.
Save Your Legs! will be in cinemas in 2013.
Director: Boyd Hicklin
Stars: Stephen Curry, Brendan Cowell, Damon Gameau, Darshan Jariwala, Pallavi Sharda
Running time: 91min