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It's hard to decide which is more unbelievable, that Paul Bettany is actually a professional tennis player, even number 115 in the world, or that a British male could possibly win Wimbledon. Nevertheless, you have to accept both possibilities to watch this movie. Talk about suspension of disbelief! Wimbledon, the movie, tells the story of an aging English tennis player (Paul Bettany) who is playing out the string before becoming the Pro at a private women's tennis club and an up-and-coming American tennis player (Kirsten Dunst) who meet and fall in love during the Wimbledon Tennis fortnight (I love using that word). Bettany has the typical dysfunctional English family (Bernard Hill, Eleanor Bron, James McAvoy) seen in a hundred other movies. And Dunst has a typical tennis father (Sam Neill) who is trying to keep her away from distractions like Bettany. Oh, and they play a little tennis.
You know the old joke, "Never fall in love with a tennis player because to them, love means nothing." Well, this could be the premise of Wimbledon, so slight are the plot and characters of this new movie. Really, I kept waiting for something dramatic to happen. I mean the basic plot is there, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy plays in the Wimbledon final, boy gets girl back. But it was all too easy. Sure, Sam Neill tries to be a nasty tennis father but he's too nice and you can tell he really likes Bettany. And, of course, one of the two lovebirds has to lose a tennis match (see how I'm not spoiling it for you?). But the only real anguish in Wimbledon is suffered by Bettany's brother who keeps betting that Bettany will lose. But no one really sacrifices anything, like Eric Liddell refusing to race on the Sabbath in Chariots of Fire, or overcomes tragedy to save the day, like Billy Duke in Face-Off. My favorite romantic moment ever is when Tony Curtis stops the car inches from the finish line to prove his love to Natalie Wood in The Great Race. There's nothing like that. Sigh.
Not much happens in Wimbledon but it's still a likeable film for all that. You have to ignore the scenes where Paul Bettany is actually on court, since he plays tennis about as well as I do. More believable is that Bettany could attract Kirsten Dunst since he's married to Jennifer Connelly in real life. Dunst is much more believable as a tennis player than Bettany and she doesn't have to spend as much time on the court. She looks and moves like a young Monica Seles. Bettany and Dunst are pretty good together but the sparks are exactly flying. Dunst (The Virgin Suicides, Crazy/Beautiful, etc., etc.) and Bettany (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, A Beautiful Mind) have shown in previous films that they both can act. But they aren't tested here. I love Sam Neill but he is totally wasted here and his American accent is awful. There's also a pretty dumb cameo by Jon Favreau as Bettany's and Dunst's Agent. The direction is Ok, considering it is by the highly acclaimed, Richard Loncraine. Ok, he's mostly acclaimed for his TV work. Wimbledon moves along nicely and whether you want to or not, you end up rooting for Bettany to win Wimbledon and get the girl! And it's not so far-fetched. I can remember Jimmy Connors and Chrissy Evert in love at Wimbledon. So what if they broke up right afterward.