The shakiest scenes in Breakaway, a hockey-meets-Bollywood mash-up about skating Sikh-Canadians, occur on the ice. Take that for what you will. The rest of this nimbly-paced but routinely-plotted sports fable is tolerably more entertaining.
That’s when, away from the regurgitated genre cliches, the culture-themed comedy charms with likeable actors making the best of a less-than-desirable situation: stock situations, flat dialogue and the absence of both genuine laughs or real thrills.
Vinay Virmani, who also wrote the screenplay, stars as Rajveer, a gifted amateur hockey player with a disapproving and traditional Sikh father (Anupam Kher) who would rather his son devote himself to the Toronto-area trucking company owned by his uncle (Gurpreet Singh).
Raj may have already dropped out of university and chopped off his hair (unlike the rest of his friends and family, who wear turbans), but it’s his obsession with Canada’s national pastime - the movie opens with a sequence we know is a dream because the Leafs are winning something - that most rankles his father.
Not that this dissuades Raj as his on-ice ambitions begin to take shape into something attainable. First, he and his friends find themselves nurtured to greatness under the wing of a former NHL player (Rob Lowe) who recognizes their potential. Then Rajveer convinces his uncle to sponsor the team, calling them the Speedy Singhs after the aforementioned trucking outfit (and because all the players have the same last name).
But despite the fact Breakaway is directed by Robert Lieberman (D3: The Mighty Ducks), this isn’t The Mighty Sikhs. Somewhat surprisingly, in fact, the plot piles on the out-of-the-rink detours.
For example, Lowe’s coach has a comely younger sister (Camilla Belle) who Rajveer begins to romance, despite, again, the consternation of his father (his mother and younger brother are more tolerant).
Meanwhile, Raj also finds himself exchanging verbal jabs with the newly-arrived and self-absorbed fiancée (Russell Peters) of his cousin (Noureen DeWulf).
Still, for all the disruptions - as when Raj’s teammates potentially forfeit their chances at a championship by refusing to wear helmets - we can be assured the third act will come down to a climatic game between the Singhs and their race-baiting arch-rivals, the Hammerheads. Similarly, even the colourful production numbers - one of which occurs when Raj is unconscious - feel more rote than inspired, never straying from the expected.
Throughout the movie, the seasoned members of the cast acquit themselves admirably - particularly Kher - while Virmani is agreeable and energetic in the role of underdog. Less impressive? Lowe, who no one apparently bothered to wake up.
Not that there’s ever any doubt things will work out for Raj, whether it’s the inevitable tear-filled assuagement with his father or the equally unavoidable outcome of that last supposedly nail-biting showdown.
In the end, Breakaway suffices as an amiable film about cultural - and self - identity, with its improbable hero finding his footing, both when on blades and not.