- Jul 6, 2003
Running Time: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Audio: English – Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1; French – Dolby Digital 5.1
December 28th, 2004
Is the filmmaking team behind Wimbledon beginning to develop a stranglehold on British Rom-Coms? I am beginning to think so, for even though Wimbledon does have a few more unforced errors in its writing than the endearing Bridget Jones’ Diary and quirky Notting Hill, the film hits enough passing shots and serves up just enough aces to come up a winner! Sorry, no more tennis terms, I promise…
So, with the writing not quite as strong as their past efforts, and a slightly more formulaic plot, then what is it about the hybrid sports movie / romantic comedy Wimbledon that makes it a worthwhile viewing experience? Well, for me, the charismatic leads, the cute “girl-next-door” Kirsten Dunst and very likeable Paul Bettany, generate the greatest amount of the film’s charm. In these types of movies, you always want the two characters that are supposed to end up together to generate believable chemistry, and in this case I think Dunst and Bettany do just that, giving good, honest performances that give their characters depth at the same time as they make viewers want the couple to end up paired off.
In terms of its storyline, Wimbledon is your garden-variety underdog story about a 31-year-old professional tennis player named Peter Colt (Bettany). Once ranked 11th in the world, Peter has now slid all the way to 119th, and even worse, the younger competitors on tour are now dispatching him relatively easily. As such, Peter is planning to retire from the game he loves to earn a secure living as the Tennis Director at a country club, where he will cater to rich, old, and bored women.
It is funny how life works sometimes though, for although Peter’s career (and personal life) seem to be at a low point, a seemingly simple mistake by the Dorchester Hotel staff would be the thing that would turn both his career and life around. Specifically, after being granted England’s “wild-card” slot at the prestigious Wimbledon tennis tournament, Peter checks into the Dorchester, and is erroneously given the key to a posh suite. To his good fortune, the suite was already occupied by American tennis star Lizzie Bradbury (Dunst), a feisty, cute as a button young woman who has quickly become one of elite women on the pro tennis tour.
Now, the reason I said Peter had good fortune is that though Ms. Bradbury is known to have a rather volatile temper, and Peter walks in on her showering, the jovial Englishman charms her instantly, and they are soon in the midst of a whirlwind romance. And somehow, as their relationship develops, Peter’s game is given a kick in the pants, and he trounces his first-round opponent at Wimbledon. Feeling invigorated, Peter wants to see more of Lizzie, but unfortunately, Lizzie’s overbearing father/coach, Dennis Bradbury (Sam Neill), tries to cut old Pete off at the pass, lest love interfere with his little girl’s game. Of course, like all Rom-Coms worth their salt, the remainder of the film is the story of how the pair comes together, in spite of the forces trying to keep them apart, like the overbearing Mr. Bradbury.
Of course, since the movie would end if they could not continue to meet, the couple continues their relationship in secret, and love-struck Peter just keeps playing better and better. Indeed, he finally manages to find the killer instinct that had previously eluded him for his entire career, when he is forced to square off against a very good friend during his miraculous run at Wimbledon. The challenge, however, is how to continue keeping his meetings with Lizzie secret, as the paparazzi will stop at nothing to discover who her new boy toy is, now that she has split up with the handsome young tennis wunderkind, Jake Hammond (Austin Nichols). Hmmm…I wonder if Peter will be matching up with him on the court before the film is over?
In the meantime, the downtrodden Peter once again becomes a hot commodity with his smooth-talking, money-hungry agent Ron Roth (Jon Favreau), sports reporters, and his fellow countrymen as he advances deeper into the tournament. Will Peter be able to maintain his composure and keep playing great tennis as his relationship with Lizzie hits a speed bump, and people clamor for a bit of his time? Can his great run, which has rallied nearly all of England behind him, reunite his dysfunctional family? Sorry, but if you want to know then you’ve got to watch!
Okay, so this story may seem a little stale (even though it usually doesn’t involve tennis), but the steady hand and keen eye of director Richard Loncraine helps make it seem fresh, by adeptly crafting some delightful scenes of Peter and Lizzie building the foundation of their relationship, both on the court and off. The stylish, fast-paced tennis scenes also help offset the somewhat formulaic nature of the plot, not to mention dazzle the senses by employing a variety of the visual tricks available to modern filmmakers and an engaging, up-tempo soundtrack.
Yet another plus for Wimbledon is that not only do the lead actors bring an infectious energy to the film, but they also infuse the characters in Wimbledon with the small quirks that allow them to really come to life. Take, for instance, the strange behavior of Peter’s brother and parents (played excellently by Bernard Hill and Eleanor Bron), who are living off his name and trying to overcome problems in their own relationship, respectively.
However, as charming as it is, Wimbledon is not without its share of flaws, the biggest of which I think is too much focus on the Peter Colt character. I know the movie is really about his redemption, but sometimes it seems as though Lizzie is almost relegated to the sidelines, and we don’t even get to see much of her in action on the tennis court. As I mentioned earlier, I bought into their relationship anyway, but I think that Kirsten Dunst’s character could have been fleshed out just a little bit more.
Another minor quibble is how predictable the conclusion to the film is. In all honesty, you can see it the cinematic equivalent of a mile away, which bothered me a bit, although that can probably be said of most films of this nature. In the end, however, these deficiencies don’t take away from the film too much, and Wimbledon is still a solid and entertaining Rom-Com, perfect for cozying up in front of the widescreen with a significant other. I know the several women who watched this with my wife and I the second time I viewed it sure loved it…
To sum things up, Wimbledon is not quite a “great” film, and it is not the best Rom-Com from this particular group of filmmakers, but I thought it was definitely a fun and enjoyable 98 minutes nonetheless. As such, if you like romantic comedies, particularly those with a “British flavor”, this would likely make a good addition to your library!
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Wimbledon, offered by Universal in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), is a visually interesting film, and this precise transfer ensures that its unique look, and the variety of techniques employed to achieve it, remain intact. First off, since much of the film takes place on or near tennis courts, whites are clean and bright, and the grass courts of Wimbledon are almost as lush as they appear in real life (greens were toned down digitally in post).
Other colors, particularly bright primaries, look fantastic, as they are nicely saturated without any distracting “bleed”. Detail is excellent as well, which is both good and bad. How can too much detail be bad, you say? Well, the benefits of an extremely detailed image should be obvious, but in the case of this film, the level of detail makes it quite obvious that the majority of the tennis balls in this film are CGI.
Getting back to the good stuff, black level is also rock solid throughout, so there is plenty of detail in both shadows and dimly lit scenes (although there are not too many of those). Most importantly, edge enhancement and artifacting are nowhere to be found. The long and short of it is that this is a very slick, film-like, and error-free transfer! Nice!!!
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
I am sure you have heard this before, either from me or other DVD reviewers, but romantic comedies usually don’t push sound systems too hard. Now, with that being said, although Wimbledon is not going to place most home theater enthusiasts in audio nirvana, the 5.1 channel mixes provided on this disc are surely more engaging and dynamic than those that accompany most Rom-Coms. This is particularly true of the DTS track!
More specifically, the surround channels are fairly active during the tennis sequences, and also serve to enhance the reproduction of sourced music. Frequency response, imaging, and timbre accuracy are also quite good, with the edge going to the DTS track in all three areas, although the DD track is no slouch.
As is the case with just about every other romantic comedy, dialogue makes up most of the source material, and both 5.1 tracks succeed in this area as well, reproducing the characters’ speech clearly and accurately. Really, there is nothing much to complain about here, as either mix (DD or DTS) should suit viewers just fine.
Actor Paul Bettany and director Richard Loncraine reunited to create a commentary track for this amusing film, and the result of their effort is candid, funny, and extremely informative. Better yet, the tandem gets on very well, so the commentary was every bit as lively as it was informative. For me, some of the highlights were:
--- A short discussion about how the title sequence was a very late addition to the film.
--- Many details are given about the visual effects in the film, as are details about the locations used, such as the fact that the London Zoo substitutes for the entrance to Wimbledon (which has “no proper entrance”).
--- Mr. Loncraine talks about some of the problems that were overcome by his talented crew, especially as it related to visual continuity, and how colors were “tweaked” digitally during post production.
--- Both gentlemen are candid about scenes in the film that they do not like, and they discuss why they believe the scenes could have been better.
After listening through it, I have to say, this is one of the more entertaining commentaries I have listened to over the past few months. Since it is equally interesting, I would have to imagine that most people who like Wimbledon will find it to be a worthwhile listen!
Wimbledon: A Look Inside
This nearly 10-minute “making of” consists of interviews with the principal cast and crew, as well as footage from both the film and the set, which give viewers a look behind-the-scenes of the film Wimbledon. Some of the things covered include: some background on the main characters and their motivations, the effort to make the tennis sequences believable by consulting with and involving real tennis pros, and how the film follows Peter Colt on his journey to silence his critics (particularly the one in his head). Overall, it is somewhat light on detail and generic, but if you liked the film it is worth watching once.
Welcome to the Club
Being a tennis enthusiast, I was really interested in this featurette, which I was hoping would outline how the filmmakers persuaded the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club to allow the production to film there, some of the history and tradition of the club, and the significance of the Wimbledon Championship. Sadly, this short 3-minute piece is fluffy, consisting chiefly of the actors, crew, and some tennis legends (John McEnroe and Chris Evert) talking very briefly about the club, and some of the things it allowed the production to do there.
I do realize that many people that see this film will not have the interest in tennis (particularly Wimbledon) that I do, but I still think this was a missed opportunity to give people a greater appreciation for both the history and traditions of the legendary venue and the sport of tennis. Really, all of this could have just as easily been covered in the “A Look Inside” featurette.
For my money, the highly detailed and informative “Ball Control” (4:53) is the best featurette on the disc. In it, the filmmakers discuss the creation of the film’s unique look, and how they conquered the challenges of making a film heavily involving tennis, as played by actors, look realistic. More specifically, they talk about how the application of technologies/processes such as CGI Balls, “Time Slice”, and “Motion Control” were used to free the actors to perform.
Coach A Rising Star
The 3-minute “Coach A Rising Star” featurette offers viewers a look at how Pat Cash aided the filmmakers in establishing an air of legitimacy in the tennis sequences, and at the training regimens the film’s stars undertook for their roles. In addition, Kirsten Dunst, Paul Bettany, John McEnroe, and Chris Evert talk about the importance of making the tennis matches seen in the film look realistic.
Like most of the other featurettes on the disc, it is not incredibly detailed, but it does offer a fairly interesting look at how people who have never played tennis before are made to look like seasoned pros via a few months of preparation and the magic of filmmaking.
The original theatrical trailer for Wimbledon is included.
The disc kicks off with trailers (which can be skipped) for Friday Night Lights[/i], The Terminal, and Vanity Fair.
(on a five-point scale)
Film: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Video: :star: :star: :star: :star: 1/2
Audio: :star: :star: :star: :star:
Extras: :star: :star: :star: 1/2
Overall: :star: :star: :star: :star:
THE LAST WORD
With the exception of a few minor flaws, Wimbledon is a very solid and entertaining romantic comedy, boasting winning performances from Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst. Given that it also contains a significant amount of the themes usually found in “sports movies”, it also offers a little something different from other romantic comedies.
Universal’s DVD release of Wimbledon also delivers where it counts most to me, which is in the audio/visual departments, although the extras are somewhat of a mixed bag. To put a finer point on it, the image and sound quality on this disc is very good, which makes for a very pleasant viewing experience. However, aside from the commentary, the extras are not quite on par with the transfers, as most of the featurettes are fairly short and superficial.
All in all, however, Wimbledon is a good enough film, and the DVD is well-appointed enough, to deserve serious consideration for a spot in the film libraries of all of you romantic comedy aficionados out there! Recommended!!!