Save Your Legs!
(M, 92 minutes.) Opens Thursday.
Rarely does a local comedy feel authentic and endearing while also delivering an infectiously feel-good story that's accessible to all.
This glorious ode to mateship from director Boyd Hicklin is based on his own experiences as an amateur cricket player in which the second-rate team he joined – the Abbotsford Anglers – went on an unlikely tour of India in 2001. Hicklin shot the event for posterity on Super 8 and video, releasing it as a doco in 2005.
The ringleader of the team, Nick Batzias, later colluded with Hicklin and actor-screenwriter Brendan Cowell to turn this project into a fully fledged feature.
What will surprise most in Hicklin's accomplished debut feature is its tone, its shrewd casting, and its deft use of comedy. The Aussies are the ones who are blatantly (but cheerfully) out of their depth in a nation that adores cricket even more than they do. The humour is gentle but always sharp. Tellingly, not once does a single gag fall flat.
Cowell, as team hellraiser Rick, is joined by a string of well-known Australians who blend together superbly. Damon Gameau is the flashy frontman known as Stav (said to be based on Batzias' own larger-than-life persona), Stephen Curry plays the hapless cricket fan Theodore ''Teddy'' Brown, and Australian-raised Indian beauty Pallavi Sharda is the object of his affection. David Lyons also shines as the team member whose spiritual antenna just might guide them through.
Given its setting, there are inevitably gags aimed at the tourists' reactions to local cuisine, although it's kept to a strict need-to-laugh basis and no more. Cowell's script, in fact, should be a lesson to all in getting comedy just right. At no point do we roll our eyes with dismay: everything here is in its right place. Even a homoerotic subplot never fails to amuse. Better still, an interest in cricket is not remotely required.
Save Your Legs! premiered at 2012's Melbourne International Film Festival to great acclaim before going on to do the same in Mumbai and London. This very rare beast of a comedy, then, demands attention. It's witty, it's sharp, it's good-natured, it's a joy from beginning to end. Or, to use more appropriate jargon, it hits a six at every turn and proves a wonderfully unexpected delight. You'd be a mug to miss it.