Despite their sunkissed faces and earnest performances, screen hottie Kirsten Dunst (Spiderman) and the blue-eyed, handsome Paul Bettany (A Beautfiul Mind) can’t make Wimbledon more than a run-of-the-mill, sugary romantic comedy.
Admittedly, I’m not a die-hard tennis enthusiast. But somehow, even though I read that the film is from the same makers who brought us Bridget Jones’ Diary and Notting Hill, I went in thinking it might be somewhat more dramatic, especially given the caliber of the two main actors’ previous works. But the film doesn’t delve into the tennis player’s psyche, except on a superficial level. In the end, it is ultimately predictable.
The premise has universal appeal. Peter Colt (Bettany) seems to be past his prime, ready to throw in the towel with his tennis career regardless of how his performance at Wimbledon goes. Formerly ranked the 11th best tennis player in the world, Colt has slipped down a long way to 119th and is now a wild card. After accepting a position as a tennis director at an old fogies club, Colt faces a life crisis.
Dunst is rising tennis star Lizzie Bradbury, who Colt first sees lathering up in a suite he is mistakenly sent to at The Dorchester. While they look great together and their chemistry is natural, it’s not passionate enough to deem a true love match. A firecracker on the court, Lizzie from the get-go insists that their fling be completely casual, no strings attached, so as not to disturb her game. Her protective dad/manager, played by Sam Neill, keeps an eye on her like a hawk. Colt agrees to the arrangement, but of course, he becomes increasingly enamored of her.
Contrary to some sports pre-game protocols, their trysts prove beneficial — at least for Colt, who is now giving Britain a shot at being represented at Wimbledon. Surprising himself, Colt continues to win, beating his cute German friend Dieter and numerous other competitors, while Lizzie’s game gets, well, sloppy. Despite Lizzie switching hotels and telling Colt to cool it, he can’t — he’s lovesick, climbing up hotel facades to court his tennis queen.
There are cameos of tennis greats John McEnroe and Chris Evert as expert commentators at Wimbledon, along with Jon Favreau as a former agent that pops up like a gopher on a golf course when he sees Colt’s on a winning streak. Of course, he’s also Bradbury’s agent, so he lets Colt in on Lizzie’s whereabouts.
I think if we had been given a chance to see more of Colt’s career, how he was in his ‘hungrier days’ as an up and coming pro, the film might have been more interesting. Special features on the DVD include “Wimbledon — A Look Inside” that’s interview snippets with the stars, “Welcome To The Club,” that explores tennis culture, “Coach A Rising Star,” that discusses the stars’ preparations for their roles (and the wonderful world of CGI), plus a feature commentary with Paul Bettany and director Richard Longcraine.