breaking the routine

Here’s a beautiful example of ‘breaking the routine’ during the boxing sequence in ‘City Lights’.

Breaking the routine is where a routine or a pattern is established (something happens the same way, or a similar way, around 2 or 3 times). The routine is then ‘broken’ by having something unexpected happen on the 3rd or 4th beat.

This engages the audience by keeping them on their toes a little, while also lending a more interesting rhythm and texture to the scene.

Notice how Chaplin reacts to the big punches:
1. knocks him left…
2. knocks him right…
3. he explodes in a flurry of punches!!

It keeps the audience hooked!

Here’s a scene from Zoolander. Will Ferrell throws in a 30 second routine breaker, and it’s probably one of the funniest moments in the movie!

And in animation we also see a lot of ‘breaking the routine’. Watch how Yzma pauses on the “a little to the left” line. This makes things so much more fun to watch, and keeps us guessing.