Director Michael Tully’s Ping Pong Summer revisits a simpler time, or at least a vastly different one: the 80s. Letting loose with a series of summer movies, the numerical quality of which has never been quite matched, with a wide-array of teen-centric stories, the Eighties was a majestic time. Unfortunately its majesty is more a romanticized view of the era than how it actually was, but that doesn’t detract from the stereotypes and tropes that emerged out of the decade and its movies. Ping Pong Summer takes everything you love(d) about 80s genre coming-of-age films and effectively mashes them together.
From the music to the bullies and even the training montages, Ping Pong Summer focuses on young Rad Miracle and his quest to get the girl, stand up to bullies, and have the summer of his life, all through becoming adept at ping-pong. Frankly, Ping Pong Summer was such a crowd-pleaser for me; it helped that I went in with absolutely zero expectations. I had no idea what Ping Pong Summer was about and only went because it was part of the Boston Independent Film Festival; I almost didn’t go. I am ever so glad I did.
A light-hearted and especially warm film, Ping Pong Summer is chock full of hilarity and awkwardness. How does winning a ping-pong match against the resident bully entitle one to date the most gorgeous girl in town? I have no idea, those are simply the rules to this universe and I can totally dig it.
The critics, whoever they might be, the ones who did not enjoy said movie, could only muster up the most inane of criticisms. Firstly, the acting. While there are several great actors like Sarah Sarandon, Lea Thompson, and John Hannah, the lead actors, the kids, sometimes their acting come off as uncomfortable. Done purposefully, our central protagonists are not necessarily actors per se, rather kids that Michael Tully found somewhere along the way and thought would be perfect fits for his movie. They are. He wanted the acting and emotions to be authentic. They are. Next up, varying people had difficulty coming to terms with the movie’s ironic tone, and instead took the film way more seriously that one ought to. Don’t go to see Ping Pong Summer with a literal mind, but instead take a chill pill and relax. If you know your Eighties references, or are on the look for generic themes, than you’ll appreciate the movie all the greater.
Even the trailer does the movie little justice, and thankfully I only watched it after viewing the film. Don’t be misled by the trailer, which only offers an inkling of Ping Pong Summer’s true majesty, or the humorless critics. A flashback to another period, Tully has created something that may as well have been some long lost film, filed away and only to be rediscovered now and shared with the masses. And believe you me, shared with the masses it should be.