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Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Why stay at home and cook Aloo Gobi when you can bend a ball like David Beckham?

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 112 minutes

UK Certificate: 12


As far as I can remember, “Gregory's Girl” is really the only football film that's ever worked – and even that's because it's not really about football. There are loads of them that have been terrible. “Mike Bassett: England Manager” and “When Saturday Comes” spring instantly to mind, whilst “Escape to Victory” was only any good as a result of its being inadvertently funny.

But “Bend It Like Beckham” truly is an enjoyable ride, with much more in common with “East Is East” or “Billy Elliot” than any of the titles mentioned above. In an impressive movie debut, Parminder Nagra plays Jess, a London-based Indian girl with an amazing football talent and a slight obsession with Manchester Utd wide man David Beckham.

Her dreams of soccer stardom look set to come true when she starts doing the business for a local ladies' team, but troubles are never far around the corner. For one thing, her strictly-traditional family are none too chuffed about her choice of career. For another, she predictably ends up falling for coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), much to the disgust of team mate and close friend Jules (Keira Knightley).

The opening scene where a superimposed Jess heads home the winning goal for her beloved United doesn't quite work. Then again, neither does the following scene where BBC pundit Alan Hansen pretends to support Scotland (we all know he's an England man these days – bloody traitor!). But from there on in we're treated to plenty of nicely-observed wit, particularly from Juliet Stevenson in a delightful turn as Jules' mum Paula.

Admirably, the film manages to look at issues such as racism and cultural diversity without ever becoming overly-serious or weighty, and every member of the cast plays their part tremendously. What I really want to know is, will there be a sequel called “Sit on the Bench Like Beckham”?.

It's Got: Shaznay Lewis, of "All Saints" fame, in the extremely small role of team captain Mel.

It Needs: The football scenes to look more realistic. Is it just me or is all of the equipment far too clean?

DVD Extras Feature length audio commentary with Gurinder Chadha, "Who wants to Cook Aloo Gobi?" cookery featurette, behind the scenes, deleted sections, "Hot Hot Hot" music videos and theatrical trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 8/10


Hugely enjoyable Brit-flick that never takes itself too seriously.