Wimbledon (review)

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It’s downright tragic to see a cast so wasted as the highly appealing stars of Wimbledon are. This floppiest of the floppy-haired British romantic comedies shoehorns the agreeably brambly Paul Bettany (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) into the Hugh Grant role, where he fits comfortably as aging tennis pro Peter Colt, competing in his final All-England, until he meets American player Lizzie Bradbury in perhaps the most unlikely meet-cute in the history of meet-cutes. The snag isn’t Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man 2) as Lizzie — she’s as kissably delicious as Bettany — it’s that despite the leads’ sweet chemistry and how darn adorable they look together (or perhaps because of it) there’s no real excitement in their relationship. Toothless and bland, the film removes the wacky romantic-comedy schtick from the equation, which would be a fine and welcome thing if it had been replaced with some genuine romance. It hasn’t. Instead, we get to share the astoundingly unclever “wit” of Peter’s little internal pep talks to himself on the court and while courting — they’re the most banal clichés you can imagine — and the unfunny bad manners of an American sports agent played by Jon Favreau (Something’s Gotta Give), who deserves better than this. All potential the film may have had to surprise gets ironed flat, from Lizzie’s pain-in-the-ass stage dad (Sam Neill: Doctor Zhivago, also getting short shrift) being defanged at the last minute to the nice-ified Hollywood ending. At least it doesn’t posit that men’s goals and achievements are more important than women’s, or that women should put aside their own egos in order to make men happy. Oh, wait: it does.

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