Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst star as tennis players competing in the top tournament in the world - and as lovers who have a serious effect on their significant others' game. Wimbledon is an entertaining and fun sports flick that succeeds by playing it safe.
Bettany is Peter Colt, a tennis player who was once ranked 11th in the world but is now 119th and expected to be eliminated from the sport altogether in the first round. However, on a chance meeting he runs into Lizzie Bradbury (Dunst), who is expected to go all the way. She does - with him, and they soon start an unlikely affair. Suddenly, Peter starts playing the best tennis of his life, but he has the opposite effect on her - she begins to struggle.
As with most sports films and romantic comedies, the ending is pretty much given - which means that the entire movie is fairly predictable. Nevertheless, people keep coming back to romantic comedies and they keep coming back to sports films for the same old stuff and for the same reason - they're fun to watch. People like to watch the underdog go against all odds and win and they like to watch good-looking people get it on. Wimbledon delivers. There is nothing especially unique about this film and it never is overly ambitious, but it plays it safe and the end result is a fun little movie with likable characters and lots of tennis. The only original part of the movie is that it does feature tennis, a sport rarely seen in American films.
As already mentioned, there is a lot of life-size ping-pong. For us guys, that's a very good sign - from beginning to end Wimbledon does not disappoint when it comes to sports. Director Richard Loncraine uses a lot of special effects and camera tricks to get into the action (often from the ball's point of view), although the tennis scenes could have been done better. The director maintains a good level of suspense, but none of the matches are extremely intense in terms of the actual game being played. I was hoping for some gritty shots of sweat flying off of the characters and the ball getting drilled at 150 mph, but the movie never really capitalizes on the speed of the game. For those of you expecting to see Kirsten Dunst in action, she's in the bedroom more than she is on the court (and thus not wearing short tennis skirts as much as we would like). It would have been fun to see a little more of her character playing tennis.
So, the guys should be satisfied with the amount of sports that is in the movie, but what about the romantic side? Will the girls be happy? Probably. There is nothing incredibly moving about their affair and Wimbledon wisely avoids any deeply emotional scenes where the two characters shout at one another, but Bettany and Dunst do share some on-screen chemistry. They are fairly cute together. It also helps that Bettany plays his character to perfection; Dunst is pretty good, but not fabulous.
Wimbledon works well as a sports flick and decent as a romantic comedy; the end result is a workable, enjoyable, lighthearted film. It is cute - nothing less, nothing more.
If you're a fan of the movie, then the DVD may be an option for you; for the rest of us, it's really not worth picking up. The DVD includes a few behind-the-scenes special features that take a look at the special effects, tennis training and more, but none go very in depth and all are fairly promotional. The tennis training one is mildly entertaining, since it sounds like neither of the stars knew how to play tennis before filming the movie, but it still isn't very impressive. An audio commentary from the director and Paul Bettany is also available.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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