Rare is the modern movie that can teach and touch you at the same time.  BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM at the Drexel East takes soccer, family. Coming-of-age and an undertone of ethnic tension and turns them all into a lovely visual curry well worth a trip to the theater.

Especially if the theater is the Drexel East.  In my first review of this series I lauded the downtown Arena Grand.  But my heart will always be with Bexley's Drexel, the classic old-timey throw-back to the days when theaters had heart.  Unfortunately, a few years ago our little east-side community tore down its other cinematic treasure, the old double-screen Bexley, to make way for---you guessed it---a McDonald's.  But there is justice in the world:  we locals forced that Mickey D's shut by passing an ordinance against drive-throughs.

Meanwhile, almost miraculously, Jeff & Kathy Frank's beautiful Drexel has survived in tact.  It is seasoned, classy, comfortable and unique, everything a theater should be that cares about what's on the screen.  I consider it an honor and a privilege to live a few blocks away. 

It's also a place where a film like BEND IT can thrive.  The story line centers on the predictable but alluring struggle of the lovely young Jess (Parminder Nagra), to escape her family's strict Pakistani mores and play big-time soccer.  She links up with the WASPy Jules (Keira Knightley) to make their way onto a local women's team and an unfortunate (and somewhat unconvincing) triangularity with their Irish coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).  All this plays out against the backdrop of the strict demands of a straight-laced immigrant culture and the ethnic, feminist and gay liberation conflicts of today's London. 

Co-writer/director Gurinder Chadha plays it all with a champion's light touch, mixing sentimentality and humor with an attractive cast we can believe and embrace.  The whole thing is anchored by Anupam Kher, veteran of an astonishing 270 Bollywood epics, who plays Jess's soulful, conflicted father. 

But few central Ohioans will be distracted by the fact that this guy is a big-time movie star on the other side of the planet.  The youthful authenticity of the cast and their clever young director gets us through the Disneyesque wrap-it-all-up ending with humor, grace and genuine gratitude.  My eleven-year-old daughter Julie, my erstwhile companion at this viewing, confirms that what we have here is a film full of honest laughs, intelligent social comment, good soccer and no bloodshed or overt ethnic warfare, sexual perversion or horrific car crashes or chases. 

The David Beckham of the movie's title, by the way, is a big-time English soccer player famous for kicking a great curve ball.  It's hard to believe a movie like this can succeed in today's American market.  But it's good enough to score a Beckham-like bender, even for those of us who don't know a damn thing about soccer.