Kultur // 2004 // 52 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Diane Wild (Retired) // February 25th, 2005
"If God had meant Wimbledon to be played in great weather, He would have put it in Acapulco." -- anonymous (as quoted in The Wimbledon Video Collection: The 2004 Official Film)
Fortunately for this review, I'm not quite as ignorant about tennis as I am about many sports. It doesn't compare to hockey, a knowledge of which is implanted in every Canadian's brain at birth, but at least I almost get the scoring system.
Personally, I can't understand the appeal of watching non-live sports, but living in the land of hockey during a National Hockey League strike has taught me something: there's nothing more pathetic than the sight of men -- at an office Christmas party, no less -- gathered around a television to watch a rerun of a game whose outcome was known 10 years ago. Sorry, what I meant to say is that I realize there are people who appreciate a cherished sporting event as I would appreciate a favorite movie -- knowing how it ends doesn't diminish the joy of making the delightfully familiar journey towards that end.
That said, The Wimbledon Collection: The 2004 Official Film is more than a rerun of the matches, or a selection of highlights culled from the evening news. It adds some analysis to the emotional victories of Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer. It's less than that, too; there's a bit more padding than necessary, with long shots of the crowd entering the stadium, awkward sketches, and long segments on the rain delays.
However, the alternately humorous and inspirational quotes about tennis and Wimbledon make nice transitions between the action, and the discussion about enclosing the stadium to protect it from rain is educational. Even more valuable are the interviews with key players, including crowd favorite Goran Ivanisevic. But the highlight is watching the surprises of this year, such as Venus Williams' exit after a scoring error, and other favorites bowing to the superior play of lower-seeded players. Oh, but I guess they're not surprises to those of you who actually saw the tournament as it happened.
The documentary was scripted by sports journalist Andrew Longmore and is narrated by Stephen Fry (Wilde, Bright Young Things). That's right, Mr. Multi-talented Fry, who can create side-splitting comic characters, embody equally compelling dramatic ones, write and direct a respected film, act as an informed spokesperson for important causes, and toss off a bestselling novel or two -- all in the same weekend -- narrates this little tennis documentary. Here's what I came up with as an explanation: it's Wimbledon; he's English. It's tennis; he wrote a book called "The Stars' Tennis Balls" (which, come to think of it, has nothing to do with tennis).
No, I can't do it, I can't figure out why Stephen Fry is the natural choice for a narrator, except that the addition of his mellifluous voice could probably make a documentary about the history of the rivet reasonably appealing. (Please, Kultur Studios, please don't test that theory. I might end up reviewing it.)
Clever wordplay never overshadows the action, but there's a literary quality to the narrative that makes even ogling Sharapova seem classy -- Fry describes the lovely blond as "the latest model off the Russian production line, but tested and polished in Florida."
There's nothing to get excited about technically, but this is a fine DVD release. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound allows you to hear every thump of the ball and grunt of exertion almost as if you were there, and the image is better than broadcast television quality, though there's an artificial brightness to the colors. There are some crowd-pleasing extras, which amount to less than 10 minutes of snippets of past Wimbledon matches. Rolex gets top billing, with a logo on the DVD case, "brought to you by..." images at the beginning and end of the DVD, and a Rolex commercial is even included as an extra. Lucky, lucky us.
The Wimbledon Collection: The 2004 Official Film represents the tournament well. Whether you have any interest in watching it long after the final outcomes depends on you. Are you with those guys watching sports reruns at a Christmas party, or are you against them?
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Wimbledon Homepage