No, "Bend it Like Beckham" is nothing extraordinary. It's your regular old, run-of-the-mill soccer movie. It's a running, screaming, jumping, kicking cliche. But to tell you the truth, I really couldn't care less. When you're just looking for a fun time at the movies, "Bend it Like Beckham" is an enjoyable retreat from most of the penny-pinching blockbuster sludge that are slightly easier to find in many multiplexes.
The story goes as such: Jess Bhamra (full name: Jesminder Bhamra, played by Parminder K. Nagra) is a die-hard soccer fan with a huge crush on celebrity soccer player David Beckham (but remember, he's a "footballer" in this case). Not only is she such a devoted soccer enthusiast (with a Beckham shrine in her room), but she's also pretty damn good at the sport itself. One day fellow soccer player Juliette (or "Jules") Paxton (Keira Knightley) gets to see just what Jess can do, and she's impressed. Jules tells Jess about a semi-professional soccer team that she's on, and that she should be trying out. Jess gets in, and takes a liking to the coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). However, the soccer will have to be kept secret from her parents (Anupam Kher and Shaheen Khan), since girl's soccer goes beyond their traditional orthodox Sikh views of what they think a woman should or should not do.
"Bend it Like Beckham" has a lot to gain from the spunky attitude that it upholds. When there's a movie with a central idea this thin, it's up to the director to keep up a light demeanor and keep it going at a fairly speedy pacesure, that sounds immature of an audience member to ask, but if you treat scrappy material with a heavy hand, It'll feel like days until it's finally over. Director/co-writer Gurinder Chadha keeps this film loaded with juice and full of enthusiasm (surprise surprise, it's only when the overcooked love story kicks in that we groan). Some fine comedic performances (especially one standout from Juliet Stevenson as Jules' mother) also have a hand in making this film a joy.
It's also really nice to sense that Chadha really cares about what she's doing here. Yes, it's clear that she didn't set out to make some great work of art, but it's also clear she wants to do this well and thoughtfully. This is apparent from some of the more prominent pieces of the film to some of the details. For example, notice how there is not one "token ethnic" character in the film. Yes, there are some movie stereotypes: the crazy, overprotective mothers, obnoxious buddies, and the like, but never does the film cheat itself out of a fully developed character in the name of appearing diverse. "Bend it Like Beckham" can be proud of itself in that it earns its message of unity; and while yes, it is obvious, it never feels forced.
So while almost everything in "Bend it Like Beckham" may feel like a cliche, it doesn't ever really matter. When a film is made with such care and with such an acute recognition of what its purpose really is (that would be entertainment), one can just relax and have a good time. So who cares if you know how it ends?