[box cover]

Bend It Like Beckham

Soccer — er, football — fans may not all feel the same way about David Beckham that Jesminder Bhamra does, but chances are that just about anyone who's ever kicked a ball around will appreciate the fancy footwork and good-spirited comedy in director Gurinder Chadha's breakthrough feature, Bend It Like Beckham (2002). Even people who don't know a corner kick from a throw-in will be hard-pressed to deny the charm of the movie, which has the "ethnic families are funny" appeal of My Big Fat Greek Wedding without that film's occasional lapses into over-simplification. Parminder Nagra stars as Jesminder ("Jes" to family and friends), a Beckham-loving Anglo-Indian girl from West London who would much rather wear cleats and shin guards than a sari and bindi. And she's good, too — so much so that Jules (Pirates of the Caribbean's Keira Knightley), the star of a local women's football team, invites her to try out. But all of Jes's successes on the field have to be kept secret from her more-traditional parents (Anupam Kher and Shaheen Khan), who can't understand why their daughter doesn't want to get married and learn how to cook. Toss in Jes's older sister Pinky's (Archie Panjabi) wedding, a cute Irish coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and Jules's high-strung mother (Juliet Stevenson), and you've got a recipe for curry-flavored cinematic hijinks. Sure, it's not particularly difficult to guess how the movie's going to end, but getting there is awfully fun — and funny, thanks to the sharp dialogue by Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, and Guljit Bindra, who mock London's Indian community with such knowing affection that you can't help laughing. The cast is talented, too: Nagra and Knightley turn in strong, earnest star performances, Stevenson is hilarious, and Kher is sweetly protective as Jes's dad. Many of the extras are played by Chadha's family members, some of whom also turn up in the special features on Fox's DVD. The director's mum and aunt are on hand to help her make aloo gobi, a traditional curry dish, in a 15-minute featurette, and folks come out of the woodwork for a quick "music video" sequence, which is really just an extended version of the behind-the-scenes singing filmed for the movie's end credits. Other extras include a laid-back audio commentary by Chadha, Berges and Bindra, trailers, a text recipe for aloo gobi, 10 deleted scenes (just over 14 minutes' worth of footage), a "making-of" featurette, and a rather shameless plug for the soundtrack. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) does full justice to the film's bright colors and fast-paced football scenes, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is strong and clear. Other audio options include French DD 5.1, Spanish 2.0 Dolby surround, and English and Spanish subtitles. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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