Serving up Britcom clichés and genuine good heart in equal measure, Gurinder Chadha's culture-clash comedy is destined to win over all but the most cynical of audiences. Bend It Like Beckham doesn't offer any insights into Anglo-Indian issues -- racial, sexual, political, or otherwise -- that haven't already been better-covered by such filmmakers as Hanif Kureishi or Mira Nair. But it does seamlessly integrate its lighter-than-air girl-power agenda into the larger template of a screwball domestic comedy, complete with petty duplicities, a love triangle, and a climactic family wedding. Pushed along with snappy editing and a well-chosen pop soundtrack, the film buzzes by at a pleasant pace, and although the characters hem closely to their pre-ordained types (the sensible mother, the stubborn father, the impudent older sister), each is given enough screen time to make a sufficient emotional impact. None of this would work, however, without leads Parminder K. Nagra and Keira Knightley, whose easygoing rapport and apple-cheeked earnestness are a perfect fit with the movie's tone. For her part, director Chadha doesn't conjure up much visual poetry, but she does have a keen sense for the comically absurd: a throwaway shot of a gaggle of traditionally dressed Indian matriarchs digging for their cell phones -- in tandem -- is one of Beckham's best moments.
by Michael Hastings review