Poor Anupam Kher. Despite having a career's worth of iconic roles, he gets type-casted as the Punjabi Father Who Hates Sports. This is his third time around, after all. At least no one can accuse him of meting out differential treatment to his screen sons and daughters. In Speedy Singhs, Vinay Virmani plays his son, a Indian-Canadian boy, who is a (cocky) ice hockey aficionado and has lost touch with his Sikh roots. His father wants him to become a truck driver and take over his uncle's business, while he wants to become a sportsman. After some half-hearted racism incident, he convinces his friends to form an all-Sikh ice hockey team for some bush league tournament and gets Rob Lowe to coach them.
Spoiler alert: they win and he gets the girl.
The underdog team sports movie, especially the ethnic community underdog team sports movie has been done only a few million times before and Speedy Singhs does not even come close to exploring new territory. Seriously, if you have watched Bend it Like Beckham, just imagine Parminder Nagra without the bosom and a hockey stick instead of a football and you're golden. You will predict the entire plot of movie within 5 minutes, including (and especially) the climax. It's not exactly a suspenseful film. Having said that, I enjoyed it immensely. You shouldn't watch it for the paint-by-numbers plot, but for the funny, witty dialogue and surprisingly excellent performances by the supporting cast. The Speedy Singhs shared a believable camaraderie and their scenes had excellent comic timing without ever being heavy-handed or maudlin. In fact, the supporting cast (especially that sheepish goalkeeper) were so funny, that I wish they had got more screen time.
And the music? AWESOME.
My biggest problem with this movie was the extremely underdeveloped plot. It didn't have to be such a big pile of clichés. A lot of interesting story arcs were mentioned and then promptly abandoned. Racism was used every now and then to move the plot along. Okay, tell us about racism in Canada. Don't throw one cardboard cut-out racist hockey team and otherwise nice, happy Canadian people at us and expect it to create an undercurrent of racist tension (and therefore, motivation for the protagonist). Sure, they wanted a cute, funny movie and not a deep, insightful film about racism. But whoever said the two were mutually exclusive?
Also, why did Rob Lowe agree to coach the team, and that too, with nothing to gain? What's his motivation? He could've been an interesting character, if he hadn't been rendered into a cheap supporting role. I was also thoroughly unconvinced by Vinay Virmani's passion for the sport. Did he ever try out for any of the teams and get rejected for being an ethnic minority? Playing with your neighbourhood buddies on weekends and then ambushing a team's practise session to beg for a try-out was unprofessional and seems to suggest a lackadaisical attitude towards the sport. Not exactly the kind of traits that make you want to root for the protagonist. Fortunately, Virmani is handsome and therefore got my vote (just about).
Usually, underdog movies have montages of the motley team sucking at the sport and slowly improving. Hell, montages make up 1/3 of the running time of any self-respecting sports movie. But here, there was very little of the sport itself and all that improvement stuff happens off screen and Rob Lowe simply says "oh okay you guys are much better now yay for us." This was presumably a pragmatic decision, because their target audience are Indians, who don't know a thing about ice hockey. Nevertheless, a sport movie without well-executed, heart-stopping climaxes is just odd.
I'm sure you're wondering if Russell Peters was superfluous. Yes and no. He isn't strictly necessary and his character is meant to be the obnoxious jerk who gets his comeuppance by the end of the film, but he does it so well that it is impossible to hate him. He got the funniest lines and his banter with Vinay Virmani make for the some of the best scenes of the film. Come on, I chuckle every time I watch the "Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad" sketch. He's okay in my book. Akshay Kumar's cameo on the other hand, was totally superfluous. But then, one could say that about every single one of his roles.