Speedy Singhs is a bargain basement version of Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham, borrowing the exact same premise but leaving out the sharp wit of that cross-cultural comedy. Newcomer Vinay Virmani stars as Rajveer Singh, an NRI kid in Toronto who clashes with his father (played by Anupam Kher) when he defiantly pursues his interest in ice hockey, instead of focusing on his blue-collar job at his uncle’s transport company.

It’s a harmless by-the-numbers underdog story that taps every cliché associated with the genre. Unable to secure a spot on the gora team, the hero assembles a local band of misfits who’re whipped into shape by a white coach (played by Rob Lowe) seeking his own redemption. In no mood to upset his father, the hero lies that he’s given up the game, then gets thrown out of the house when daddy discovers he’s been playing all along. Predictably the young chap falls for a white girl, whom he brings to an Indian wedding, where his family looks on disapprovingly. Speedy Singhs also raises questions about cultural identity and the freedom of choice, but these are both addressed and resolved in the kind of superficial, sanitized style that so many diaspora films before have mastered.

What’s crucially missing in this movie is a sense of drama in its sports scenes. You barely see the team practice or strategize for their games, which is why their sudden proficiency in the final matches appears contrived, and their underdog status repeatedly mentioned but never justified. What’s more, given that Speedy Singhs is intended clearly as a starring vehicle for Virmani, who wrote the script himself, you’re not surprised the film spends barely any time establishing a bond of friendship or sportsmanship between the teammates, choosing instead to focus on Rajveer as the central force of the team.

On the upside, the film benefits from some clever banter between Rajveer and Russell Peters, who plays the obnoxious fiancé of his cousin. The soundtrack has some hummable hits, and leading man Vinay Virmani has a likeable presence. But the film delivers no more than time-pass entertainment because it offers nothing that you haven’t been served before. 

I’m going with two out of five for Speedy Singhs. It’s old wine in an old bottle.

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