Even if you don't follow tennis, you undoubtedly know that Wimbledon is one of the biggest professional tennis events of the year. This "Grand Slam" event always attracts the brightest stars in tennis, all vying to win or at least make it into the finals. The Wimbledon Video Collection: 2004 Official Film is best described as a "highlights" program for this event: given that the Wimbledon championships run over the course of two weeks, it would be impossible to give more than an overview in the program's 52 minutes of running time.
The 2004 Official Film is rather an odd piece, even considered as a highlights program. In fact, it feels more like a memento for viewers who've already seen most of the action on television (or in person, for true aficionados). The clips of tennis action are separated by short pieces in which actors portraying Wimbledon staff members have casual conversations about who's a favorite to win. There's also a lot of attention paid to the overall "Wimbledon experience," so for instance the intermittently rainy conditions during the 2004 event ends up being a major theme of the program.
The film does handle the chronology of the tournament well: the mens' and womens' events are interleaved, as they were at the actual event, and we see the progression from the early stages to the semi-finals and finals. Each of the major players is given a brief but useful introduction, so we find out who's a hot newcomer to the tennis scene, and who's an aging veteran saying goodbye to his fans. While the cover does show the images of the men's and women's singles winners, the film itself doesn't give away who wins, so if the winners aren't fresh in your mind, I'd suggest trying not to look at the cover before you pop in the DVD. While none of the doubles' tournaments are shown, the winners of these events are shown in the credits.
The actual tennis footage is frustratingly uneven in quality. For the major matches, we get to see many of the crucial plays, which is great, but the camera work tends to get in the way. Instead of sticking with the excellent full-court view, the camera often cuts to a close-up at crucial moments. Considering that the excitement comes from seeing how the play is made, it's annoying to be shown only the player and not the full court when it really matters.
Overall, The 2004 Official Film is a light-weight piece that certainly doesn't substitute for following the whole tournament. I don't know a whole lot about tennis, so it was entertaining for me to get a glimpse of what Wimbledon is like; if you're a dedicated tennis fan, you may enjoy the film as a reminder of the 2004 tournament.
Overall, the image looks quite good. It's presented in a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1); this surprised me and at first I was concerned that it would be a cropped version of the television broadcast footage, but in fact (thanks to British television embracing the widescreen format) it's clear that the images are presented in their original and correct aspect ratio. The image is very clear and bright, and most of the time it looks nicely sharp and clean; the only problem is that during close-ups, whenever there's motion in the image there are noticeable compression artifacts. I suspect that this is a problem with the original digital broadcast footage, not with the DVD transfer, as all of the footage that was filmed specifically for the DVD looks perfect.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is perfectly satisfactory for the film. The voiceover narration is clear and crisp, and the recorded sound from the tennis matches is clear as well.
A section of "Golden Moments from the Archive" presents very short clips of key moments in previous Wimbledon tournaments. The clips, which run about one minute each, come from the 1985 Ladies' Final, 1988 Ladies' Semi-Final, 2000 Men's Final, 2001 Men's Final, and 2001 Ladies' Semi-Final. It's interesting to look at the 1980s clips and see how much the style of tennis has changed since then. A brief tennis-themed Rolex commercial is also included.
I doubt there are many professional tennis DVDs out there, so while the Wimbledon 2004 Official Film is a fairly light-weight piece, it does start to fill a niche in the sports DVD field. I thought it was mildly interesting to get a view of what Wimbledon is like, and tennis fans who followed the tournament on TV may enjoy seeing it as a reminder of the key moments. Rent it.