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Film serves up new shot at old game

Liz Byrum | Monday, September 20, 2004

The new film “Wimbledon,” a romantic comedy produced by the company who brought “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary” to the big screen, takes a new approach to the classic story of the underdog. In the movie, Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) intrigues the audience as he strives for the impossible at Wimbledon and steals the heart of American tennis star Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst).Peter Colt is a former tennis great who was once ranked 11th in the world, but has since fallen from glory – all the way to a ranking of 119. At the age of 31, he is at the end of his tennis career and has received one last chance in the wild-card spot at Wimbledon, the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Throughout the movie, Colt’s luck takes him through ups and downs both professionally and personally. Finding love gives him the confidence he needs to fight back after years of defeat, but he isn’t sure it will be enough to take him back to the top. Bettany’s performance is a believable one that leaves you rooting for the underdog. “Wimbledon” provides a comical and touching portrayal of many aspects of Colt’s life as he tries to fulfill his dream of winning the men’s singles title against the best young tennis players in the world. His family gives the movie needed depth, as well as a wonderful taste of British humor. Although they each play minor parts in the film, the actors who portray Colt’s mother, father and brother each fit their roles very well.”Wimbledon” also shows an aspect of a sport that many people never see. That is the role a parent sometimes plays in the life of a grown athlete. In the movie, Lizzie’s father, Dennis Bradbury (Sam Neill), wants to control every aspect of her life in order to see her win. As the story plays out, their relationship grows and changes as Dennis realizes that his daughter can make her own decisions.The relationship Colt has with his practice partner and best friend, German tennis champion Dieter Proll (Nicolaj Coster Waldau), also provides an important aspect to “Wimbledon” by showing the support and encouragement friends and competitors can have for one another. Even for someone who doesn’t play sports, this relationship could teach an important lesson about loyalty and friendship. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the young Jake Hammond (Austin Nichols), the favorite in the tournament, and Colt’s personal and professional enemy from the beginning. With a small, but significant role, Hammond is truly a character the audience loves to hate.At first glance, this story may seem like nothing more than a sappy romance that only teenage girls would enjoy. However, it is much more than that. It is a story that brings together aspects of love and athletics in a way that is not seen very often at the movies. It may take a certain kind of guy to appreciate what is put across in the film, but it is definitely worth a try. Through impressive acting, great writing and a complex storyline, “Wimbledon” rises above the average teen movie.