SXSW Film Review: 'Ping Pong Summer'

Boombox beats, best friends forever, and (no) sex on the beach

As wholesome as it is intentionally awkward, director Michael Tully’s ode to the beloved “bad means good” cult classics lands somewhere between the lessons of Karate Kid, the predictable hilarity of National Lampoon’s Vacation, and a raunch-free version of Wet Hot American Summer.

When Radford Miracle - a teenage Ping-Pong enthusiast and hip-hop super fan - joins his family on vacation to Ocean City, Md., in the summer of 1985, he has no idea the life lessons in store (even if the audience sees them from a mile away). The fun, era-defining Rolodex of pop culture includes Run DMC and Casey Kasem, tension-building synthesizer, and a classic “Uranus” joke. Rad, dubbed "Radical Miracle" by his new best friend, faces off in a Ping-Pong showdown with a rich-kid bully and his redheaded sidekick (who elicited plenty of laughs with his standout Chris Farley-meets-Seinfeld’s Newman persona), while also navigating the perils of cheesy puppy love high on Funk Punch (an Icee mixed with Pop Rocks, Pixie Stix, and “maybe cocaine”). In a small but pivotal role, real-life table tennis aficionado Susan Sarandon plays the eccentric Randi Jammer, who steps in from the shadows to teach Rad the ways of bravery and Ping-Pong skills. The comedic chops of Sarandon, Lea Thompson, and Amy Sedaris balance the likeable (if a little green) cast in this feel-good retro teen movie.

Ping Pong Summer

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Monday, March 10, 10pm, Rollins
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South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW 2014, SXSW Film 2014, Ping Pong Summer, narrative, feature, Michael Tully

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