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Wimbledon (2004)

Shes the golden girl. Hes the longshot. Its a match made in...

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

At last, after years of having to make do with Mick Hucknall, Chris Evans and Geri Halliwell, along come a couple of gingers we can be proud of. Kirsten Dunst has already carved out a successful name for herself as Hollywood’s top cheeky-chopped girl-next-door-type, and late-developer Paul Bettany (at 33, this is his first proper starring role) is well on his way to becoming a sort of versatile version of Hugh Grant. Together, they’re the carrot-topped partnership in ‘Wimbledon’, a tennis flick that juggles the two interests (and endless pun opportunities) of “love” both on and off the court.

Bettany plays perennial journeyman Peter Colt, an English tennis player stumbling quietly towards the end of his playing career and already operating with one eye on retiring to a doddery old folks’ lawn club. He looks all set for another year of bowing out more-or-less unnoticed from the early stages of Wimbers, until he meets dimpled American hot-shot Lizzie Bradbury (Dunst) and is suddenly given a new lease of life.

From there on in, whether you’re looking at it as a sports movie or a rom-com, it’s a fairly bland old experience. Colt is the underdog whose meteoric and highly-unlikely rise through the ranks of his chosen sport, culminating predictably in a showdown with an old, under-written foe, has been seen on screen a squillion times before. The other half of the story – the love story part – is just as weak, moving from one cliché to the next and seldom stopping to include any real laughs.

But, for all that, the film has two aspects that save it from complete failure. The first is the clever use of special effects to create some surprisingly impressive match scenes. So often in the past this is the bit that sporting movies have failed to pull off, but here the action works well and culminates in a genuinely gripping final face-off (even if you do know exactly who the winner’s going to be). The film’s second triumph is its two leads, whose performances prove that, if you’ve got enough charm, even the dullest of material can just about hold the attention.

It's Got: A bizarre release date. You’d think that a film about Wimbledon might be scheduled to coincide with – oh, I don’t know – Wimbledon??

It Needs: New balls, please.


Only the stars bounce in this dull-as-Henman Wimblebore.