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
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
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