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Wimbledon (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Welcome to the Club; Ball Control; Coach a Rising Star; Audio Commentary; Wimbledon: A Look Inside.

THE premise may be as unlikely as the possibility of Tim Henman winning the Championship, but there is still plenty of fun to be had in watching Wimbledon, the latest romantic comedy from the Working Title stable.

Paul Bettany steps into the trainers that were probably vacated by Hugh Grant, as Peter Holt, a British tennis player who has never quite lived up to his dreams of tennis stardom.

Once ranked 11th in the world, the journeyman veteran has since slumped to 119th, and is preparing to play his last Wimbledon tournament, thanks to a wild card entry, having opted to retire gracefully amid the outside courts of the world-famous venue.

After a chance encounter with emerging American player, Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), however, Holt suddenly begins to find his game, growing in confidence as he embarks upon an unlikely romance with the quick-tempered starlet, and progressing through the tournament in spite of his own misgivings.

Directed by Richard Loncraine, Wimbledon is, essentially, a journeyman entry into the Working Title rom-com genre, which gets by thanks to an excellent service game from Bettany and some nice support play from the likes of Jon Favreau, as an agent, and Sam Neill, as a domineering father.

It won’t net any sceptics, and isn’t as smashing as either Love Actually or Bridget Jones, but it does work on the all-important romantic level, as well as functioning as a fairly decent sports movie to boot.

What’s more, it confirms Bettany as one of Britain’s brightest leading men, as he carries the film with effortless aplomb, capably winning the audience over in his bid to be lucky in love and triumphant on court.

Dunst, too, makes an amicable playing partner, even though her character isn’t as endearing as she may have hoped, given the script’s tendency to reduce her to a cliché.

But the same can be said for most of the principles, especially since the film, as a whole, sticks so rigidly to the Working Title formula for success - from embarrassing best friends/brothers to comedy swearing.

Yet, while love-struck viewers probably won’t mind having their heart-strings tugged once again, the tennis fans among you might find plenty to pick holes in.

At least one Wimbledon tradition has been deliberately discarded, while the lack of any tennis coaches, and one particularly rain-soaked sequence, could well prove irritating for anyone attempting to take things seriously.

That the film manages to remain enjoyable, and even exciting, in spite of such bad line calls is largely down to the experience of the Working Title team in making things work, as well as Bettany’s charismatic lead performance.

So while Wimbledon may not carry the thunderous impact of an Andy Roddick ace, or a McEnroe verbal volley, it still manages to serve up an amicable evening’s entertainment that rallies the crowd towards its nail-biting finale.

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