Sundance Film Review: Ping Pong Summer

Posted January 27, 2014 in
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Photo: Jess Pinkham

Ping Pong Summer
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Michael Tully

From the goofy, ’80s-themed opening credits, this film doesn’t pretend it’s going to be anything other than what it is, and that I can respect. It’s a nod to the campy (in both the cinematic and genre definitions of the word) teen movies of the ’80s and ’90s, the underdog championship dramedies of the early aughts, with a dry, Napoleon Dynamite–styled deadpan sheen—and at times, it succeeded in coaxing a sincere smile of nostalgia or a light chuckle from a good joke, but it’s not quite enough. The premise is simple and pure: Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) goes to a beach town for the summer where he befriends another social reject and comes into conflict with the town’s rich-kid bully, reaching a head in an intense ping pong playoff. Susan Sarandon plays the off-beat coach and neighbor, and Lea Thompson is the shining star who fits right in as the vapid mother—perhaps because it’s not far removed from her role in a cult classic actually made in the ’80s—but this film’s jokes are too over-the-top and amateurly executed to measure up to modern (and more subtle and/or absurd) comedies. I realize this is a tribute to the cheesy movies our generation grew up with, but Ping Pong Summer is like a cover song that doesn’t quite grasp the magic of the original. Loved the synth beats and RUN DMC tracks, though.