Inspired by a true story of an Australian club tour to India, the idea of a cricket-centic bromantic comedy might cause concern for many a prospect viewer. Never fear, the fish-out-of-water, coming-of-age cricket odyssey 'Save Your Legs!' is light-hearted and frequently enjoyable, if overly predictable.
In 2001, director Boyd Hicklin chronicled the voyage of Aussie club team, the Abbotsford Anglers, as they travelled to India for a cricket tour. That documentary, also entitled 'Save Your Legs!', has been expanded for this feature, which yet again follows the Abbotsford Anglers on their passionate journey from the suburbs to the sub-continent.
'Save Your Legs! focusses on Ted Brown (Stephen Curry), whose life is consumed by his love of cricket. He is the driving force of a D-grade club cricketing outfit, a club full of characters like the cheeky chappy Rick (Brendan Cowell, also the screenwriter), arrogant "lad" Stav (Damon Gameau) and restrained guru Prince (David Lyons). Characters who lack the same commitment to the game as Ted does - aside from his dedicated club secretary Colin (Darren Gilshenan).
Nonetheless, Ted manages to get sponsorship to send his ailing team to India to play in a tournament, representing his boss Sanjeet (Darshan Jariwala) and to some extent, Australia. Ted also harbours ambitions of meeting his idol, Sachin Tendulkar. But as some of the team focus more on their own journeys of excess instead of the team's cricketing journey, Ted is forced to examine his priorities.
The unfamiliar setting of India further heightens the struggles of the team, and Ted in particular, who "gets the runs" in more than one sense. Ted's life is encapsulated by his generally favoured stroke, the forward defensive - taking one step forward yet going nowhere in particular. The appearance of Sanjeet's attractive daughter, Anjali (Pallavi Sharda) ignites new passion but as the tour begins to crumble, Ted's dreams find themselves in jeopardy.
'Save Your Legs!' ends on a disappointingly clichéd Bollywood musical number, a shortcut to completing the screenplay. The actual cricket displayed on-screen feels much more authentic, by comparison. However, 'Save Your Legs! successfully uses India (and its people) as a wonderfully vivid background, as if we too are on the tour - thanks largely to cinematographer Mark Wareham, a name to watch.
This film will particularly resonate with anyone who has the pleasure of experiencing the camaraderie of competitive sport. For others, it may be more of a struggle. While there are several moments of humour, and the film is generally well-meaning and good-hearted, 'Save Your Legs!' succumbs to predictability all too soon. A little more ingenuity and originality along the way might have hit us for six but we don't mind 'Save Your Legs!' putting away the winning runs with a metaphorical quick single, as it does here.
'Save Your Legs!' had its UK premiere at the BFI 56th London Film Festival on 11 Oct '12. For more info and screening information, go to bfi.org.uk/lff and saveyourlegs.com.