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Bend It Like Bekham

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Bend It Like Bekham

Starring: Parminder K. Nagra, Keira Knightley
Director: Gurinder Chada
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: March 2003
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Anupam Kher, Archie Panjabi, Shaznay Lewis, Frank Harper, Juliet Stevenson, Shaheen Khan

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

Gurinder Chadha's BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM is an ethnic comedy that would love to become the next MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING. With a big heart, but a weak script, it is a sports story that skimps badly on the sports action in favor of ethnic humor. It even throws in a little love triangle, but most of the comedic action comes in the tension between an English girl and her parents, who were born in Pakistan. For the parents, even the wearing of the required soccer shorts is scandalous.

Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra (Parminder K. Nagra) is a high school senior who has been playing with the boys in the park for years. No, not that. She is one of the best members of their ad hoc soccer group. Recognized as a budding star by Juliette 'Jules' Paxton (Keira Knightley), a member of a real soccer team for girls, Jess is taken by Jules to meet their strikingly handsome coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). It's obvious from the beginning that Joe's heart will eventually be torn between the two fetching young women, which will cause a rift in Jess and Jules's friendship. Actually, the entire story is obvious and predictable, which is one of its problems. A bigger one, for me, was the jump-cuts and other cinematic techniques used to avoid showing much real soccer, save some random kicks here and there.

Most of the movie, which plays like a sugarcoated confection that you'd find on Disney's cable channel, concerns Jess's protective family and her quiet rebellion against them. Pretending that she has an after-school job, Jess goes to practice and to the games without admitting to her parents what she is up to. In a parallel story thread, Jess's older sister is about to get married, and the wedding is to be a very big event in the local English-Pakistani community.

So are you up for the movie's final exam? Will Jess's parents let her play in the big game that everyone knows will undoubtedly occur near the movie's conclusion? Who will score the winning goal? And what big event will occur at the exact same time? You are so smart. At least the ending does surprise us a bit in its music choice for the big score. I liked Jess and her family, but why did the movie have to be so formulaic and predictable?

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM runs too long at 1:50. It is rated PG-13 for "language and sexual content" and would be acceptable for kids around 9 and up.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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