Movie Review
Bend It Like Beckham
Bend It...Beckham poster
By Todd Heustess     Published March 28, 2003
US Release: March 12, 2003

Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
Starring: Parminder K. Nagra , Keira Knightley , Jonathan Rhys-Meyers , Anupam Kher

Running Time: 112 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $32,543,449
A genuine crowd-pleaser with heart
If you crossed My Big Fat Greek Wedding with Monsoon Wedding and added a touch of Billy Elliot, you would get something that closely resembles Bend it Like Beckham, the hit British comedy that is finally hitting screens in the U.S. (it was a huge hit in Britain last year).

Every few years there's a little British comedy that becomes a hit over here (Full Monty, Billy Elliot, Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Bend it Like Beckham could be a big word-of-mouth hit if audiences find it. Bend it is a heartwarming, hilarious, ethnic, family comedy that is basically a Rocky story for girls but it feels original because it's about an Indian girl who likes to play soccer but does so against her family's wishes.
Jess is about to go to college and her family thinks it's time for her to marry a nice Indian man; they think that now that she's a woman it?s time for her to give up her soccer habit and act like an adult. There's even more pressure on her being that her older sister is getting married, so now the family's attention has turned toward her. Jess has played soccer with the boys in the park for years and is quite good. One day a member of a prominent girls? team (Jules) notices Jess playing and tells her to try out. Jess decides to play with the girls? team against the wishes of her parents and thus sets up all sorts of comedic complications especially given the intense family focus on her sister's wedding. Matters become even further complicated when Jess begins to fall for her soccer team coach, Joe, who is definitely not Indian.

It's a familiar plot (girl/guy goes against the wishes of his/her family to pursue their dream); however, Beckham feels fresh and almost new, and it's just not its focus on an Indian family or women's soccer that makes it fresh. Jess's family is not ethnic stereotypes (like a Big Fat hit from last year), but real people who love her and want what they think is best. Jess is immensely likeable and we are instantly in her corner, rooting for her. Her friendship with Jules feels natural and her romantic feelings for her coach are handled in a realistic and uncontrived way.

Bend it Like Beckham is a genuine lump-in-the-throat crowd-pleaser with heart, and it will leave you smiling and feeling happy. I think that audiences here in the U.S. will appreciate the story and the characters even if they don't like soccer, have any idea whom Beckham is, or occasionally have trouble understanding some of the accents and slang used by the characters. The appeal of Bend it Like Beckham is universal and audiences everywhere will be rooting for Jess to keep bending it, like her hero.
Todd's Grade: B+
Todd's Overall Grading: 13 graded movies
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