India plays host to broad Aussie humor in “Save Your Legs!,” an amiable comedy about a motley crew of cricketers touring the subcontinent. Energetically performed by popular thesps, this unpretentious entry has the right mix of hijinks, heart and cross-cultural romance to be embraced by the general auds it’s targeting. World preemed at the Melbourne fest, pic looks set for a strong showing domestically after its January 2013 bow, when the Aussie cricket season will be in full swing. Export potential is slim outside India, Blighty and other territories where terminology like “silly mid-on” and “leg-before-wicket” needs no explanation.
The story’s origins lie in the 2001 Indian expedition by the Abbotsford Anglers, a lower-rung amateur team from Melbourne featured in the 2005 docu “Save Your Legs.” Stepping up from that project to his debut feature, helmer Boyd Hicklin has captured the essence of cricket as a game that may seem incomprehensible and arcane to outsiders, but is practically a religion in India, and deeply embedded in the Australian consciousness as a bastion of male bonding.
King of the cricketing mates here is Anglers club president Teddy (Stephen Curry), a lonely thirtysomething man-boy whose life revolves around the game he plays with best buddies Stav (Damon Gameau), a wealthy married man, and Rick (Brendan Cowell, also scripting), a rough diamond about to become a father. Despite the team’s mediocre track record, Teddy manages to swing a deal with Sanjeet (Darshan V. Jariwala), a rich local businessman who sponsors Aussie amateur teams to play in tournaments across India.
Predictable but nicely played shenanigans follow as Sanjeet and his pretty daughter Anjali (Pallavi Sharda) accompany the Anglers to the subcontinent, where they are promptly trounced in their opening matches. Although a few gags fall flat, Cowell’s screenplay elicits steady chuckles and a few big belly laughs from onfield disasters, as well as the culture and dietary shocks experienced by the unsophisticated Aussies. Possibly with one eye on marketing potential in conservative India, the comedy never strays even remotely into sexual territory.
Satisfactory emotional drama is delivered in the second half with Ted facing up to the fact that things have changed with Stav and Rick since their carefree younger days, and maybe there is more to life than scoring runs and taking wickets. Script has an appealing sweetener up its sleeve in the shape of Anjali, whose affections swing toward Ted despite competition from smarmy local hunk Tusshar Rai (Sid Makkar).
Well known and liked by local viewers, Curry, Cowell and Gameau click as the bromantic trio, and there’s an entertaining assist from Darren Gilshenan as statistics-spouting teammate Colin.
Mark Wareham’s lensing around Kolkata, Mumbai and the holy city of Varanasi is pleasing to look at, and Cornel Thomas Wilczek’s score is bright and peppy. The rest of the technical package is pro.