Reviewed by: Keith Howland
|Featuring:||Paul Bettany, Kirsten Dunst, Jon Favreau, Eleanor Bron, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau|
|Producer:||Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Liza Chasin, Mark Levin, Jennifer Flackett, Mary Richards|
“She’s the golden girl. He’s the longshot. It’s a match made in…”
A few years ago, there was a film entitled “Love and Basketball.” Wimbledon may as well be called “Love and Tennis.” Naturally, all of the love and tennis occur around the Wimbledon world tennis championship.
Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) is old for tennis. He’s 31, and he’s currently ranked 119 in the world. His peak was 11th, in 1996. Now he is watching younger, more vigorous men clamor to the top. He has been offered a cushy job as a tennis instructor for retirees near his home on the southern coast of England. But before he takes the job and officially retires, he wants to take one last stab at Wimbledon.
Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) is a young, boisterous, up-and-coming American, with two eager eyes on tennis’ top prize. She is a virtual cross between Anna Kournikova (the feminine comeliness) and John McEnroe (the court antics). Naturally, she is very popular.
Modern “romance” movies typically follow a standard formula: Man meets woman (usually due to a “cute” plot contrivance causing them to fatefully lock eyes); they fall swiftly in love through a series of rapid encounters; an impediment to their lasting relationship presents itself, creating conflict and temporary separation; then the impediment is removed and they are free to live happily ever after (or at least we hope they do as the closing credits roll). Toss in a supportive friend, a nutty family, and a colorful backdrop, and you have yourself a product.
Wimbledon is all that. Peter and Lizzie “meet cute” when they accidentally are given the same suite in their hotel; they have plenty of downtime between matches to get acquainted; and they have an impediment in the person of Lizzie’s over-protective father (Sam Neill), who does not want Lizzie to be “distracted” from her game and fail to win.
Sadly, another unavoidable trend in romance movies today is that the central couple (who you know from the commercials are going to get together) fall immediately into bed before barely even knowing each other’s names, and then subsequently get to know each other and then fall in love. Such is the case in Wimbledon. Apart from very little explanation of why these two people should fall in love (or why both are so uninhibited about their personal conduct), it is highly offensive and contrary to God’s intent for human sexuality. God forbids sex outside of marriage (Exodus 20:14, Matthew 5:27-28), since it is to be only between a man and his wife (Matthew 19:4-6, I Corinthians 6:16) as part of the covenant of marriage instituted by God at Creation (Genesis 2:18-24).
As may be expected from the story content and PG-13 rating, the film contains moments of partial nudity or scant dress-involving several characters in addition to the two stars. In fact, there are a great many references to sex, which only in one instance is between a man and wife. Further, there is a great deal of offensive and obscene language, including the taking of the Lord’s name in vain. (Otherwise, there is no mention of God or anything in the spiritual realm.) Violence is minimal, as there is not too much to be had in the game of tennis.
While the “romance” is offensive and hardly developed, the tennis part of the film is deftly handled, suspenseful and entertaining. Even though both Peter and Lizzie are competing, it comes down to whether or not Peter will make it all the way for his last professional stand. As Paul Bettany can actually play tennis (unlike Kirsten Dunst, who is never portrayed having a volley), there are some truly thrilling sequences. To lend naturalism to the tournament play, John McEnroe and Chris Evertt are on hand with the play-by-play.
So in the final analysis, some great tennis is laden with offensive fornication and much coarse language-which is a shame because it is all so unnecessary.
It must be said, however, that Peter Colt is a very believable and likable aging tennis pro. He is believable because of Paul Bettany’s accomplished performance (aided by the use of perceptive glimpses into his thoughts as he plays), and he is likable because he remains humble and gracious throughout the tournament, even as he continues to win and grow in acclaim. It never goes to his head. In this respect he is reminiscent of Christ, who-though King of the universe-was more humble than all men. It is such a shame that this commendable character trait is spoiled by his shameless sexual activity.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.