Posted by Ian Mantgani on 15th October, 2012
Save Your Legs! is an aggressively mediocre cricket comedy based on the Abbotsford Anglers, a substandard Australian county cricket team that in 2001 found themselves unexpectedly touring India after a more qualified side dropped out… of some tournament or another. It awkwardly tries to accommodate truthful coming-of-age material, sports movie formula and gross-out comedy, and ends up rushing past all of it. I wonder how the original story played in the obscure 2005 documentary by the same director, Boyd Hicklin, who lived with one of the original Anglers and also directed this film, but certainly the translation to broad Hollywood fiction wasn’t worth the decade-long journey.
Throughout the film’s breakneck pace – so fast it doesn’t even wanna stop to let you laugh – you can see elements of what they were going for. There are sketches of quirky characters: Stephen Curry is put-upon everyman Teddy, who tries to hold the team together, reminding them of childhood dreams of cricket greatness as they grow into family life and apathy; then there’s a guy who lays back and gets stoned, one who preens and refers to himself in the third person, one who’s a talented pretty-boy kid. The gay team manager chimes in with a lot of queer innuendo and quoting of statistics – this is incessant in the first half hour, then forgotten about. And there are many other characters that stand in the background and don’t even seem to have a line. There is also the background of the subcontinent – we get great travelogue shots.
Somehow the filmmakers thought they would get a Dodgeball of Australians in India, but it never quite works. One great shot, where a player is running for a ball and runs into a man on a motorbike randomly sitting on the pitch, captures the comedic randomness of Indian chaos. The inevitable Delhi Belly gag is played to good effect when Teddy has diarrhoea on a speeding train and it sprays in his friend’s face. Mainly the picture just speeds through tick-boxes of what a sports comedy needs to have, neither punchy and star-quality enough to work as a silly crowd-pleaser nor improvised and down-to-earth enough to be a warm character piece.
I’ve seen Save Your Legs! described as a ‘coming-of-middle-age’ film, and indeed its 35-year-old men are older than most movie characters that have to deal with putting childish things away or seeing friend groups torn apart as the participants start to care about different things. Just as it starts to portray this effectively, and actually show its characters deal with defeat and change, it somehow pulls one of its subplots out to have its cake and eat it, showing our Aussie pals both realise they’ve screwed up the cricket tour and yet still manage to have a Hollywood ending of sporting glory. There you get the typifier of its many contradictions: It’s a daft film, but it’s got enough happy energy to charm you, sort of. The characters are smart enough to point out how the beautiful Pallavi Sharda is playing Teddy’s inevitable love interest, and yet the shots idealise her so dim-wittedly that you’re still waiting for her telegraphed moments to kick in. The film is charged with real-life detail and yet plays, consistently, as fake.
There is one great scene, played like a theatrical encore just before the credits, where everyone comes back onscreen for a Bollywood musical version of “Dreadlock Holiday.” So if you fall asleep, I guess you can wake up at the end thinking you saw a wonderful film.