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WIMBLEDON(PG-13) (2004)

Universal Pictures

Official Site

Director: Richard Loncraine

Producers: Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner, Mary Richards

Written by: Adam Brooks, Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Paul Bettany, Sam Neill, Jon Favreau, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, James McAvoy, Bernard Hill, Eleanor Bron

Rating:


As soon as you find out that Wimbledon is a romantic comedy and an underdog sports movie, you know the ending. And of course it’s going to be a happy one. Yet there’s a reason why we keep going back to watch the same essential plot acted by different actors, so don’t let the predictability get in the way. Pretend that this story doesn’t happen in every other aisle of Blockbuster, and the result isn’t half bad.

Peter Colt (Bettany) is a professional tennis player beginning the downward path from his prime. At one point he was ranked 11th in the world, but he’s now 32 years old and 119th. In frequent voiceovers, where the filmgoer is given a glimpse into Peter’s mind, we find that he has problems of self-doubt about his age and abilities. This year Peter’s been given a wild card position at Wimbledon, but he’s not expecting anything more spectacular to happen this year than the previous 12 years he’s been invited. He’s even planned to retire no matter the results, and has lined up a job at the country club teaching the local ladies, with their not-so-subtle suggestive comments, how to play tennis.

That is, until Peter is accidentally given the wrong hotel room key at Wimbledon, and thus intrudes on fellow tennis player Lizzie Bradbury (Dunst), known for her aggressive, go-getter attitude. The same tactics that helps her win on the court are used to her advantage with Peter, who can’t seem to resist her, especially after a correlation develops between spending time with Lizzie and winning matches. In these scenes, London may have surpassed NYC as the most romantic backdrop for a movie.

Turns out, all this knight needed was his lady’s proverbial handkerchief to inspire him to be all he can be. Peter could be having the worst day of his life on the court, but if he happens to glance up and see Lizzie’s blue eyes in the crowd, well, let’s just say that if things always happened that way, then Lauren Bedford, Mandy Moore, or whoever Andy Roddick’s latest girlfriend is, would be a constant on the sidelines.

Everything would be too easy without a few complications in the way. The first problem is that this relationship is supposed to be kept “fun and relaxed” so each player can concentrate on his or her game. This problem is quickly ignored and laid aside. Another problem is that Lizzie’s father (Neill) is strict, stern, and wants Lizzie to forget about this boy so she can win the tournament. But fathers are a minor obstacle for a man in his early 30s and a headstrong woman, and thus this match (pun intended) is smooth sailing except for the obligatory lover’s spat that occurs sometime in the middle of the movie.

With each of Peter’s wins, life improves for everyone around him. His parents (Hill and Bron), living in a secluded English countryside, have not gotten along in years. However, they can now bond over the achievements of their son. Peter’s brother Carl (McAvoy) also finds his own success through his brother’s fame. And this doesn’t even include the newfound popularity of Peter’s agent, Ron (Favreau).

The tournament itself is filmed smartly, with clever camera effects to show movement of the ball and create suspense. Commentary on the game is provided by several real life tennis pros/commentators, which tennis followers should enjoy.

—Kelly Hsu

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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