Ping Pong Summer | Michael Tully | SXSW 2014
I didn’t have the privilege of growing up in the 80’s, but after a viewing of Ping Pong Summer, it looks like I missed out. It’s the latest feature from the mind of director (and writer) Michael Tully, and its an absolute blast of a good time. It’s a look at the childhood summers that we all had in some shape or form.
In the glorious summer of 1985 Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) goes to Ocean City with his parents (John Hannah & Lea Thompson) and sister Michelle (Helena May Seabrook). He doesn’t look forward to it, fearful of what lame adventures his rents have instore. During his stay he stumbles across a new friend named Teddy Fryy (Myles Massey) who introduces him to a fun spot known as the Fun Hub where one can hang out, play some arcade games. He has some flirtatious meetings with a cute girl named Stacy Summers (Emmi Shockley) but the constant presence of her ex-boyfriend Lyle Ace (Joseph McCaughtry) and his buddy Dale Lyons (Andy Riddle) makes it impossible for him to do anything about it.
In the world of Fun Hub ones worth is fought for on the courtyard known as the ping pong table. Unfortunately for our bud Rad, Lyle is indeed an ace at the sport of table tennis. Of course, this doesn’t help Rad’s status with Stacy. Soon Rad’s summer revolves around spending his time with Teddy and improving on his ping pong game. It’s not until local weirdo Randi Jammer (Susan Sarandon) comes around that Rad finally finds what he needs to succeed.
What you have with Ping Pong Summer is a film bathing in the glorious waters of the 80s. It isn’t worried about being corny or cheesy, in fact, it has no shame in being so. Giant boomboxes are carried, wild clothing and hairstyles are present, and the 80s slang is wild and free. Tully’s direction caters to the time period, giving it the glamorous 80’s look and feel that is requires. His script is loose and fun, not short of humor at all. The film delivers plenty of laughs, as any coming of age film should.
The young cast is filled mostly of newcomers, who fit the mold of the film just fine. For the most part they hold their own against the presence of veterans such as Sarandon, John Hannah, and Lea Thompson. It’s a colorful world, and the cast has just as much to do with that as does Tully’s leadership. You can tell that he was once one of these kids, and the nostalgia was something that he just had to share with us.
I’m glad that he did, because while watching Ping Pong Summer all I could think about was wanting to revisit my youth and just kick it with the same carefree mindset and spirit that these kids have. That’s the point of it all: to indulge in those youthful wonders that made life worth living. Just kick back, let your guard down, and enjoy. Ping Pong Summer is a delightful winner that is the definition of a crowd-pleaser.