Breakaway (2011)

What happens when you take a pretty typical movie formula, but throw a cultural wrench into the fray? That’s effectively what you get with Breakaway, a movie that was originally titled Speedy Singhs.

A group of Indo-Canadians in suburban Toronto form a hockey team in a small time league, because they can’t gain any acceptance into the other teams. This rag-tag group has to overcome a series of challenges, like lack of skill, but it’s really a cultural play. The protagonist, Raj Singh, works at his uncle’s trucking company (yes, playing up that stereotype too) and his father disapproves of his hockey-related ambitions.

The rest of the film is very predictable and very formulaic. We’ve seen it before in movies like Whip It and Bend It Like Beckham. Even so, the heartwarming film has some good comedy it, some fun Bollywood-inspired sequences, and a tale that will be familiar to anyone with traditional immigrant parents. The expected “if you live under my roof, you live under my rules” scene is in there, for instance.

I thought that Russell Peters would be a fun addition to the movie, but his acting feels very rigid and uncomfortable. He should stick to stand up. Breakaway is a good popcorn movie; just don’t expect anything to break the formulaic mold aside from some jokes that poke fun at stereotypical East Indian culture.


Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

I had a reasonably good time with the first Kung Fu Panda movie, but I realize that most sequels don’t live up to their originals. As such, I went in with limited expectations for Kung Fu Panda 2 and, well, it did what I expected.

The usual Jack Black style of slapstick humor is in full tow with Po the Panda stumbling and bumbling his way through battles. He is the “Dragon Warrior” now, but he’s as clumsy. In this film, he seeks out his origin story, trying to learn about his parents and how he ended up being raised by a noodle shop-owning bird. This is another one of those movies that will likely be fun for the kids (and the young at heart), but it is also quickly forgettable.


Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010)

We find ourselves in the middle of 1920s Shanghai for Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. The Japanese are on the cusp of war with the Chinese, the mob has a stronghold on the city, and we have this lone warrior in a disguise to save it all.

The movie has a somewhat convoluted story that will leave you scratching your head at times, but you’re not really watching this for the story; you’re watching this for the kung fu action. On that front, there is fighting, but there is better fighting in other movies. The heavy-handed Chinese patriotism can get on your nerves too.

The vigilante style will immediately bring comparisons to Batman and Green Hornet, but I left with a very “meh” feeling after watching The Return of Chen Zhen. Both the characters and subplots are left half-developed with no real substance to pull you into the movie’s world. They would have done a lot better with a much simpler and more straightforward approach.