[box cover]

Wimbledon

OK lads, before you wince when your wife or girlfriend brings home the sun-dappled rom-com Wimbledon (2004) to watch while having a snog with you on the couch, just know one thing — the first time Kirsten Dunst appears in the movie, she isn't wearing a stitch of clothes. And she's pretty easy on the eyes in all other manners of dress as well. Paul Bettany stars in this turf-bound romance as English tennis pro Peter Colt, a player who, at 31, is headed for the ash-heap of sports history — or at least a cush job coaching the blue-rinse set at an exclusive country club. But his retirement from the game's competitive ranks, while all-but-official, won't happen until he's disqualified from this year's Wimbledon tournament, which he's convinced will happen in either the first or second round. Once ranked 11th in the world, Peter has since slipped to the low-hundreds, and it's not his first appearance at the famed All-England Club. However, for rising star/enfant terrible Lizzie Bradbury (Dunst), it is — shepherded by her mindful father Dennis (Sam Neill), Lizzie has gained notoriety over her few years on the pro circuit not just for her ability to win, but also for her fierce on-court temper. She considers her outbursts merely to be a reflection of her commitment to the game, underscored by the lack of serious romance in her private life. But after Lizzie and Peter meet-cute (he walks into her suite whilst she's having a shower), the young pro decides her game could use a little spice, and she begins courting the journeyman player, who's ten years her senior. Of course, washed-up Peter could use a little excitement. What he doesn't expect is that Lizzie's affections turn his life around on the grass as well, and before long the British public is enthralled with the veteran player's underdog quest to win the heralded Wimbledon championship. Despite its title, Wimbledon isn't much of a sports movie — often, the key to what makes a sports film enjoyable is the wealth of details offered about the game and the singular personalities who play it. But, aside from the well-known bouts of superstition that haunt all athletes on a winning streak, an actual Wimbledon broadcast is bound to serve up the finer points of the sport in better fashion. But where Wimbledon does work (and clearly was intended to) is as a light romance — which comes as no surprise, being a Working Title/Studio Canal co-production. Hollywood cranks out rom-coms faster than action films nowadays, but British sensibilities towards the genre have always skewed pleasantly towards neo-screwball, with a sexually aggressive female lead pursing a befuddled, somewhat inarticulate man. Dunst is perfectly fine in her role as Lizzie, and she's displayed enough range in her career to this point that she can afford to throw in a rom-com from time to time and still be taken seriously. The same can also be said for second-billed Bettany, who's been seen on screen in enough dramatic roles (A Beautiful Mind, Master & Commander) that it's enjoyable to see him stammer away as the shy, somewhat moody Peter Colt (even if he's pretty much stealing one of Hugh Grant's paychecks here). While the script doesn't delve much into tennis as a world-class sport, the generous amount on screen is entertaining to watch, helped both by Bettany and Dunst's extensive coaching and some CGI that's so clever you might not realize it's there without being told beforehand. Authenticity comes from nothing less than the facilities of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, in particular its storied Center Court, as well as John McEnroe and Chris Evert in the announcers' booth. Universal presents Wimbledon in a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include a commentary with Bettany and director Richard Loncraine, the featurettes "A Look Inside" (9 min.), "Welcome to the Club" (3 min.), "Ball Control" (4 min.), and "Coach a Rising Star" (3 min.), the theatrical trailer, and DVD-ROM content. Keep-case.
—JJB



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