Bend It Like Beckham (12) should end with a teacher switching off a television, turning to her class and asking, "Now then, children, can anyone tell me which issues we saw raised in that film?" Directed by Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji on the Beach), it's the story of a Hounslow teenager (Parminder Nagra) whose Indian family doesn't approve of her joining a women's football team. Her best friend on the team (Keira Knightley) is white, but her mother (Juliet Stevenson) isn't football crazy either. She doesn't want her little girl to be a tomboy, and fears that the two friends might be getting a little too close. In fact, they both hanker after the team's coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an Irishman who's estranged from his father.
Got all those issues yet? There's racism, sexism and homophobia, there's parental pressure and conflicting responsibilities. It's contemporary Britain in all its multicultural diversity, and as everything turns out as happily as possible, Bend It Like Beckham must be the most well-meaning, upbeat, right-on film ever made – or at least the most well-meaning, upbeat and right-on film since Chadha's What's Cooking?
The trouble is that Chadha wants to ensure that no school child watching could miss any one of those issues. In one scene, for example, some male spectators leer at the female captain's physique, and their mate snaps, "Why can't you lot just see them as footballers?", in case we didn't get the message. Lines this leaden would be hard enough for experienced actors to bang into the back of the net. Coming from the cast's younger members they make you wince.
Gorgeous as Nagra, Knightley and Meyers are, Chadha is much more relaxed in the company of the adults. She's at home in family homes, and she gives the best lines to the two mums, Shaheen Khan and Juliet Stevenson. ("There's a reason why Sporty Spice is the only one without a fella," Stevenson says to her daughter.) Unfortunately, their scenes belong to another, funnier film than the one the kids are in. The adults' scenes belong in the cinema, the kids' scenes are for the classroom.
In K-Pax (12), Kevin Spacey informs some New York cops that his name is Prot and he's from another world. In a trice, he's locked in one of those movie mental hospitals where there's a woman who thinks she's Miss Havisham and a man who's paranoid about germs. A psychiatrist (Jeff Bridges) is assigned to answer one question: is Spacey from space or is Spacey just spaced-out? A more pressing question is – why has Prot been committed, anyway? He's a placid, benign fellow, so why should the authorities care which planet he believes he's from? Bridges's character, though, thinks that either Prot really is an alien or he's "the most convincing delusional I've ever come across". He can't be much of a doctor. Anyone can see that that Prot isn't delusional or extra-terrestrial, he's just Kevin Spacey combining impersonations of Mr Spock and Robin Williams. What kind of alien comments superciliously that "Take a seat" is a "curious human expression", but finds nothing curious about saying "Be my guest" or "How are we feeling today?"
K-Pax's inconsistencies wouldn't matter if it were just a sci-fi comedy, but the film is a sappy, portentous lecture on how men should spend more time with their families and how maybe the mentally ill are the sane ones and we're all mad. You'd expect better from actors as bright as Bridges and Spacey. I won't reveal whether or not Prot is suffering from delusions of significance, but K-Pax certainly is.
Pauline and Paulette (PG) is a more palatable glance at mental illness. A Belgian film about two middle-aged sisters, one of whom has the mind of a young child, it's a cuddly little tale, like Iris without the novels.
The One (15) is an entertaining copy of The Matrix, with Jet Li as the black-clad, dimension-hopping martial artist who moves so fast that bullets seem to glide lazily towards him. It's an all-action, no-messing superhero flick - tosh, yes, but efficient tosh, which is more than can be said for either of this week's other releases.
First up is Queen Of The Damned (15), an adaptation of an Anne Rice novel, starring the R&B artist Aaliyah, who died during filming, and Stuart Townsend as Lestat, whom Tom Cruise played in Interview With A Vampire. The plot is barking and the vampires' fast-motion running is like the chase sequence at the end of The Benny Hill Show.
Even more atrocious is Revelation (15), an amateurish British effort in which the forces of good and evil track down a biblical relic. Speaking of relics, Terence Stamp and Derek Jacobi make guest appearances – a warning to us all to get our pension funds in order as early as we can.
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