Parminder K. Nagra

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Bend It Like Beckham Review


Good
With preternatural good looks, a Spice Girl for a wife, and an uncanny ability to kick a soccer ball and make it land wherever he wants, David Beckham is one of the biggest stars of British sports. The soccer player was nice enough to lend his name to Bend It Like Beckham, a spirited, good-natured coming of age comedy that encompasses the immigrant experience, gender identity and family expectations with an engaging, natural ease.

The film follows Jesminder (Parminder K. Nagra), the child of Punjabi émigrés living in suburban London -- and one of Beckham's biggest fans. Posters of the footballer's exploits cover her walls, she wears his jersey when she plays soccer with the boys in the park, and she studies his moves during games on TV. But it's Jess's soccer skills that catch the eye of Juliette (Keira Knightley), who plays for a local women's soccer club. Jess finds herself recruited and suddenly realizes that soccer dreams of her own are not farfetched.

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Ella Enchanted Review


Weak

Following in the footsteps of the "Fractured Fairy Tales" cartoons, "The Princess Bride," "Ever After," "Shrek" and "A Knight's Tale" -- but never quite matching any of their wit or novelty -- "Ella Enchanted" is an amusingly self-aware fable of handsome princes, evil kings and one very plucky heroine caught up in a magic spell.

Aiming at the tween-ager crowd that made a hit of "The Princess Diaries," 2001's more modern twist on such girlish daydreams, light-hearted director Tommy O'Haver ("Get Over It," "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss") enlists "Diaries" charming star Anne Hathaway in the title role as a medieval teenager who was hexed at birth with an obedience spell by an irksome but well-meaning fairy (Vivica A. Fox, stuck in a mock-ghetto-fabulous stereotype).

Having grown up quite stubborn yet unable to resist any demand upon her, Ella manages to get through life keeping her curse on the QT until her widowed father brings home a wicked stepmother (Joanna Lumley) and two even worse and obnoxiously over-played step-sisters (Lucy Punch and Jennifer Higham), who quickly and cruelly figure out that they can make Ella their plaything.

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Bend It Like Beckham Review


OK

Liberated, Westernized daughters versus their traditional, ethnic mothers -- it's the trendiest genre in crowd-pleasing independent cinema. Pick an ethnic minority, embrace its clichés and use them for punchlines, then pit your female heroine (attractive, not gorgeous, with a realistic body type) in a position where she's torn between family and future.

"My Big Fat Greek Wedding" milked the formula for $250 million. "Real Women Have Curves" was a modest hit, combining body-image themes with a story about a second-generation Los Angeles Latina who wanted to go to college instead of working in her sister's dress factory -- much to the chagrin of her old-fashioned mother.

Now comes the English import "Bend It Like Beckham," in which the soccer-fanatic daughter of Sikh immigrants pursues her sporty dreams behind the backs of her disapproving parents and -- to quote from the stock-language press kit -- "has to choose between tradition and following her heart."

Continue reading: Bend It Like Beckham Review

Parminder K. Nagra

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