Although the film was met with somewhat mixed reviews when it was released theatrically, I found "Wimbleton" to be highly enjoyable and one of the best romantic comedies I've seen in a while. While the idea of a romantic comedy centered around the world of tennis doesn't exactly seem like a winner, director Richard Loncraine and cinematographer Darius Khondji give the film a visual snap that adds a lot to the picture.
The film focuses on Peter Colt (Paul Bettany, in a terrific performance), a tennis player that was once ranked 11th, but now has fallen in the rankings all the way down to 119th. He's about to take a job at a local tennis club, but he's also earned a slot at Wimbleton, where he will announce his retirement from the game.
Colt ends up meeting cute with American star Lizzie Bradbury (who's in the shower) when the hotel front desk gives him a key to her room by mistake. Although he stumbles out, there's something between the two, which comes up again when they meet on the courts. Soon enough, they've fallen for each other, despite warnings from her overprotective father (Sam Neill). Soon enough, Peter finds himself succeeding in his matches, conquering younger foes he'd previously thought impossible to defeat. Unfortunately, love proves a distraction for Lizzie, who begins to lose focus.
The picture isn't anything new in terms of the romantic comedy - there's the third act conflict, there's the overprotective father, the game where the star must play his friend and a series of other familiar elements. However, it's all pretty well-played and the cutesy supporting characters (Peter's parents, a brother that bets against him) are done just right - not becoming too cartoonish. The look of the picture is wonderful: Khondji's cinematography is glossy and gorgeous, while the games are snappily edited.
As for performances, Paul Bettany's superb effort holds the movie together well. Dryly funny and offering whip-smart comedic timing, Bettany elevates the dialogue (his several inner monologues are quite amusing.) Despite being noticably younger, Dunst is a pretty cute match for Bettany and the two have a nice, easygoing chemistry. Her performance is also pretty good, although the character is a bit underwritten. Jon Faverau offers a very funny supportng effort as Cole's agent, who suddenly appears now that Cole is successful again.
Sweet, funny and generally well-done, "Wimbleton" is a solid date flick that both men and women can enjoy.
VIDEO: "Wimbleton" is presented by Universal in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. There's a few concerns visible in some scenes throughout the movie, but most of the film looked superb here. Sharpness and detail were largely first-rate, with fine details visible in many scenes. However, some wide shots and a couple of other moments appeared a tad softer in comparison.
Some of the brighter, outdoor scenes did show some minor edge enhancement, but most scenes seemed free of it. Shimmering also did show up briefly on a couple of occasions, as well. On a positive note, no pixelation was spotted, and the print appeared to be in excellent condition, with no specks, marks or other signs of wear.
Colors remained vibrant throughout the show, as the warm tones looked rich and well-saturated. Flesh tones looked natural and accurate, while black level appeared solid. Overall, a very nice transfer.
SOUND: "Wimbleton" boasts Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtrack options (remote access is locked - one must go to the menu to change between soundtrack options.) Although a romantic comedy by nature, the picture's sound mix does offer the occasional surprise. Surrounds kick in for some ambience during the tennis matches (there's a great moment during the final match where the crowd does the wave and cheering goes around the stadium, and the cheering goes around the room), but there's also a couple of "inner thoughts" moments by the Bettany character that put the rear speakers to good use, as well. Audio quality remained very good, as the score seemed rich and clear, while dialogue and effects seemed well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Director Richard Loncraine and actor Paul Bettany offer an audio commentary. The track offers some laughs, as the two joke and chat about the final product, as well as trying to play the humor. We learn more about casting, about shooting on location and some of the choices regarding the look of the picture.
"A Look at Wimbleton" is a 9-minute featurette that takes a look at the tournament and a rather "promotional" view at the movie. "Welcome to the Club" is a very brief look at the tournament and rising recent popularity of the sport. "Ball Control" looks at the visual effects used in the tennis matches. "Coach a Rising Star" is a brief look at the work of the film's tennis advisor, Pat Cash. Finally, there's the film's trailer.
Final Thoughts: Beautifully filmed and often quite funny, "Wimbleton" offers good performances and takes standard elements and makes them into a fine, enjoyable love story. Universal's DVD edition offers solid audio/video quality and a few good supplements. Recommended.