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Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004 05:56 pm

movie review


Barely making it over the net

Paul Bettany, finally given a starring role after delivering memorable supporting turns in A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander, is Peter Colt, an English tennis pro who's never reached his full potential. Once ranked 11th in the world, he's fallen to 119th but has somehow weaseled his way into the Wimbledon tournament as a wild-card entry. Knowing that his days on the court are numbered, he decides to retire after this competition, but the press starts to urge him to reconsider as he begins to score one upset after another against far better opponents and seems headed toward the final match. What could account for this miraculous transformation from journeyman player to potential champion, you might ask? The answer is love, in the form of American spitfire Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), an up-and-coming player whose aggressive style on the court mirrors her approach to life off it.

It's bad enough that we're subjected to yet another "underdog triumphs because of love" scenario, but writers Adam Brooks, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin also throw at us numerous underdeveloped subplots and saddle the fine cast with not just stereotypes but thinly rendered ones at that. Colt's parents (Bernard Hill and Eleanor Bron) are having marital woes, his brother (James McAvoy) is focused on cashing in, and Lizzie's ex-beau (Austin Nichols) begins to hound Colt -- and wouldn't you know it, these two rivals end up facing each other on the court. Arghhh! All of these storylines are rendered in shorthand, as are the characters, with the most aggravating example that of Bradbury's father, Dennis (Sam Neill), who is a -- surprise, surprise! -- overprotective dad who wants his daughter to avoid all distractions and succeed on the court.

In the end, Wimbledon proves to be not so much a bad film as a lazy one, an entertainment content to glide by without breaking a sweat. Of course, as any good coach will tell you, this method of execution ensures defeat.

Other movies playing this week. . .

Before Sunset [R]Nine years after Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first met, they run into each other on the French leg of Jesse's book tour. Parkway Pointe

Cellular [PG-13] A young man (Chris Evans) gets a call from a woman (Kim Basinger) who claims she was kidnapped, fears she'll be killed, and doesn't know where she is. And his battery may die! ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

A Cinderella Story [PG] Routinely mistreated by her stepmother, Sam Martin (Hilary Duff) looks forward to meeting her Internet beau at a Halloween dance. White Oaks

Collateral [R] Tom Cruise is a hired killer who uses a cab to get from one hit to another; Jamie Foxx is the cab driver who slowly begins to realize what is going on. ShowPlace West

Exorcist: The Beginning [R] The original movie hinted at a backstory, and this prequel details the first encounter of Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) with the demon Pazuzu in Africa after World War II. ShowPlace East

First Daughter [PG] The president (Michael Keaton) accedes to his daughter's request to attend college without Secret Service protection. On the sly, he assigns an agent. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

The Forgotten [PG-13] When a single mother (Julianne Moore) loses her 8-year-old son in an airplane crash, she seeks out psychiatric help in order to cope with her grief. Instead, she's told her son never existed. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Hero [PG-13] Zhang Yimou's award-winning and Oscar-nominated period epic stars Jet Li as an assassin who seeks revenge against the emperor who murdered his family. ShowPlace West

I, Robot [PG-13] Set in the year 2035, Chicago police detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) investigates a murder that may have been committed by a robot. White Oaks

The Manchurian Candidate [R] Director Jonathan Demme remakes and updates the classic 1960s political thriller about a soldier (Denzel Washington) who was captured by the enemy in the Korean War (this time it's the Gulf War) and brainwashed to be used later as a pawn. Liev Schreiber is one of his military comrades who is moving up politically; Meryl Streep plays Schreiber's ambitious mother. Parkway Pointe

Maria Full of Grace [R] A Colombian girl agrees to smuggle drugs into the U.S. in order to escape a life of poverty. Parkway Pointe

Mr. 3000 [PG-13] Comedian Bernie Mac plays a retired baseball star, nicknamed "Mr. 3000," who finds out he didn't quite reach 3,000 hits. At age 47, he tries to reach that goal. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Napoleon Dynamite [PG] The title character is an odd Idaho teenager whose great loves are dancing and the ways of the ninja. Parkway Pointe

The Notebook [PG-13]Two young lovers from different backgrounds are separated when the U.S. enters World War II. Seven years later, she is engaged to a soldier when she discovers the whereabouts of her first true love.Parkway Pointe

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement [G] Princess Mia (Anne Hathaway) is primed for an arranged marriage to a English suitor. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

Resident Evil: Apocalypse [R] Alice (Milla Jovovich) must escape from a city of the dead before the killer Nemesis gets her. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Shrek 2 [PG] Princess Fiona's parents invite her and Shrek to dinner to celebrate her marriage, not realizing that the newlyweds are green ogres. White Oaks

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow [PG] The world's top scientists start disappearing as giant flying robots descend on New York City in 1939. Reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) teams up with ace pilot Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Jude Law) to stop the mad man behind this calamity.
ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

The Terminal [PG-13] Tom Hanks stars in this Steven Spielberg romantic comedy as an Eastern European immigrant who is confined to an American airport after his country is ravaged by war. Catherine Zeta-Jones co-stars. White Oaks

Wimbledon [PG-13] A pro tennis player [Paul Bettany] meets a young player on the women's circuit [Kristen Dunst] who helps him regain his focus for Wimbleton. ShowPlace West

Without a Paddle [PG-13] Three friends go canoeing in Washington state, hoping to find the money stolen by D.B. Cooper, who parachuted over the area in 1971. Burt Reynolds, in what must be the casting gimmick of the year, appears in a supporting role as a crazy mountain man. ShowPlace West

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