Aiming for a few nice volleys rather than a lob out of the court, “Wimbledon” is a cliched ridden British rom com which whilst never achieving the level of the great imports of recent years (“Notting Hill”, “About a Boy”, “Bridget Jones”), still manages to be an enjoyable little crowd pleaser with likeable leads and a few good laughs. It’s a very lightweight easy film to watch with most of the credit going to Bettany who’s definitely above the run of the mill material.
Bettany is a likable every guy in the underdog role – an average looking joe filled with self-doubt (which we cleverly hear verbalised) who’s lucky enough to have a try at winning the most prestigious title in tennis and the sexy and far younger rising female star. Dunst can’t hold a candle to Bettany’s talent and it shows on screen – making one wonder why they’re interested in each other, especially when the chemistry between them feels more like brother & sister than lovers.
Thankfully though the film is stocked with strong supporting characters all populating Bettany’s life – Jon Faverau as his loud-assed but hilarious agent, James McAvoy as his scheming little brother, Bernard Hill and Eleanor Bron as his doting parents, and hunky Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as his German tennis friend. All these side roles add fun flavours to everything. Sadly some roles like Sam Neill as Dunst’s father and Barry Jackson as Bettany’s main rival are pure stock pieces.
One can’t help but feel awkward about the whole relationship though, not about the age difference mind you but rather the unbelievability of it all. It’s one of many aspects of this film that pop this purely in the world of romantic fantasy – the script has so many leaps of credibility that it doesn’t even try to be either a strong romantic comedy or sports movie, rather a fluffy combination of both that works in its own way. You could say similar things about “Notting” or “Bridget”, but those at least gravitated themselves with a sense of cheeky fun and real hardcore emotional tugs – Wimbledon’s attempts all seem half-hearted on both counts.
Still, it’s a charming movie, no question. Loncraine shoots the tennis sequence with a clever feel of suspense, the simple credits sequence works well too. You know the outcome from the beginning, this is a film which sticks straight between the lines. It’s pretty, safe and warm – all the things one expects it too be. Shame it didn’t reach beyond expectations as many Brit coms have in the past.