Newest Review: ... somehow missed out on being a great one and I can't quite work out why! Also there are not that many DVD extras, but what there is is t... more
New Balls Please
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Advantages: Light, bright feel-good film
Disadvantages: None really - for chick-flick fans only though
Tennis is one sport that Hollywood seems to have ignored in their vast repertoire of sporting films. Technically this isn't a Hollywood film however, made as it is by Working Title responsible for Notting Hill, Love Actually and Bridget Jones. As a fan of the sport (strictly armchair level) and being rather partial to Paul Bettany I decided to settle in one evening to watch this.
This is a romantic comedy and makes no apology for the fact; the film is light and bright, even during rain scenes and instantly gives an uplifting feeling with a pop soundtrack featuring artists such as David Gray and the Sugababes. The premise is about an English tennis player Peter Colt (Bettany) playing in his final Wimbledon of his career. Currently ranked 119th in the world, he was formerly number 11 (as he likes to remind everyone) and has accepted a Tennis Director's position at the local country club in preparation for his professional retirement. This year at Wimbledon it is a bit different, and he gets caught up in a romance with America's enfant terrible of tennis, Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) with her McEnroe style tantrums, playing her first Wimbledon tournament. Lizzie is young, competitive and driven. Her father Dennis (Sam Neill) is also driven in his ambition for his daughter, although he clearly loves her. This is no will they-won't they style romance, our hero and heroine dive straight into 'fooling around' right after their first round matches. Both players are superstitious and don't want to break their routine, but whilst Peter's luck, as a Brit doing well at Wimbledon, (I did say this was a comedy) is going strong, Lizzie is struggling and her father tries to persuade them to end the relationship (who'd have seen that coming, eh?!) as he fears the 'fooling around' is becoming serious for Lizzie and he doesn't want her hurt, or to lose the tournament.
I don't want to reveal the plot for you, it is not particularly strong or original, but it is entertaining. A lot of this is down to the sterling supporting cast, not just Sam Neill but Peter's squabbling parents (played by Bernard Hill and Eleanor Born), his chancer brother Carl (Shameless' James McAvoy) who figures he can either make money at the bookies if his brother loses or get laid if he wins. Add to this Jon Favreau as the mobile phone addicted agent and Nickolaj Coster-Waldau as Peter's handsome best friend and practice partner, and you have a lovely, typical summer Brit-Flick. Most people will probably recognize Chris Evert and John McEnroe in cameo roles, as well as John Barrett, the eponymous voice of Wimbledon commentary for the last million years. Oh, and the voices of Chris Moyles and Danny Baker on the radio. British stalwarts Celia Imrie and Robert Lindsay also crop up.
The DVD has a number of Extras but they are all of the 'Making Of' variety. The first is 'Welcome to the Club', which is 3 minutes long, and talks to director Richard Loncraine, the cast and some key Wimbledon bods as to the atmosphere surrounding the tournament and Centre Court. 'Ball Control' explains the CGI effects needed to make the rallies look realistic between the actors and their opponents, who were often professionals. This lasts for 5 minutes. 'Coach A Rising Star' is a three minute look at Pat Cash coaching the cast to make them look like they knew what they were doing. Slightly longer is 'Wimbledon - A Look Inside' which is yet another making of type mini-documentary. Personally I think they could have put these together for one twenty minute Making Of documentary rather than breaking them up. As well as these little films, there is the commentary with Richard Loncraine and Paul Bettany (unique, I suspect, in that the actors do not normally contribute to such things, but then I don't normally watch/listen to them) and some trailers of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the Terminal, Vanity Fair and bizarrely the musical stage production of Billy Elliot.
I liked this film because it was light and bright and entertaining. I don't think you need to be a fan of tennis to enjoy it; there are some factual details that would be quite annoying to fans. For example the men's and ladies' semi-finals are played at the same time (which would not normally happen unless there was a huge rain backlog - which wasn't the case) and there was a male semi final on an outside court which would never happen, because if for some reason Centre Court was not available, play would move to Court One. The finalists also seemed to be a match short. That said, Richard Loncraine did an effective directing job and there were some fabulous special effects, which are not actually obvious in the film (which is why they were so good). I would recommend this film for the pure piece of light entertainment that it is.
The film has a 12 certificate. I watched it as part of my online DVD rental service. If you wish to purchase it currently the best price on the web is £4.99 at HMV. As the film has been out a while now, I suspect that bargains are also to be had on the High Street.
Summary: Lightweight, feel-good romance set during the Wimbledon tournament.