Saturday, 2 May 2009
We may be in the middle of clay court season but there’s always time for a good old British under dog rom-com. Paul Bettany takes on the Hugh Grant role as the soppy Brit taken out of his comfort zone by a sassy American. Bettany plays Peter Colt the World ranked 110 player who once was 11th but now tumbling down the pecking order. He’s considering taking on a job at Citizen Smith’s country club and a wild card at Wimbledon means he has a chance to close out his career at the grand slam.
A cock up at the Dorchester sees him going to the room of young American star Lizzy Bradbury and catching her in the shower. After doing the English twit routine he resolves to enjoy his final tournament with the indifferent support of his dad Yosser Hughes and brother James McAvoy out of ‘Wanted’. His first round against an Indian up and comer goes well after our man is reinvigorated after a rendezvous with Lizzy.
As the tournament progresses Peter finds renewed spirit as the romance blossoms. There are of course bumps in the road with Sam Neil’s over protective Dad and Jon Favereau’s pushy agent offering mild concerns. With Lizzy’s game suffering and Peter on the ascendancy we have to guess whether the underdog will win the title, the girl or both. Yes, wonder.
A film like this is pretty much immune to criticism. Any tennis fan will pick nits through the ludicrous tournament progression and wonder why a British player in the semi finals is relegated to an outside court. The actual tennis action is OK and wisely kept to a minimum. The shots are rarely classics with a lot more players than you’d expect falling over and missing easy running passes.
Bettany is likable in the lead but doesn’t impress as a champion tennis player or as the all conquering swordsman. Kirsten Dunst is better as Lizzy but she must be the oldest Wimbledon debutant in history. She’s a bit too good goody as the spoiled brat, but that role didn’t suit her in the first place. The pair don’t convince as a couple but when Kirsten gets down to her skimpies I found that I didn’t really care.
On the home front the family are largely superfluous with the parents romance being rekindled by the tournament run pretty unconvincing. In an early role for McAvoy he gets little to do as the gambling brother soon to see the light.
We all love an underdog and while the journey is pretty far fetched stranger things have happened. Not many but maybe the odd one. With a Brit doing the business at Wimbledon and a ginger bloke pulling a Yank hottie we know it’s a work of fiction but it’s an inoffensive and mildly amusing distraction.
Wait, better end on a tennis metaphor…it’s smash hit. Well a service hold late in the first set at any rate.
Best Bit : Kirsten takes a shower
‘W’ Rating : 14/23