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

Festival Favorites
Monday, March 10, 10pm, Rollins
Wednesday, March 12, 4:30pm, Topfer
Saturday, March 15, 4:30pm, Marchesa

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

SXSW Leaping Online With 2021 Dates
SXSW Leaping Online With 2021 Dates
Confirms conference, film fest, and Edu

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 22, 2020

ATX Television Festival Goes From Small Screen to Big Screen to Small Screen Again
ATX Television Festival Goes From Small Screen to Big Screen to Small Screen Again
How the celebration of TV is leading the way in streaming fests as it becomes ATX TV ... From the Couch!

Richard Whittaker, June 5, 2020

More by Jessi Cape
The Future of Mother’s Cafe Is Pending
The Future of Mother’s Cafe Is Pending
The vegetarian institution could permanently close in October

Sept. 18, 2020

Chatting With Camila Alves McConaughey About Her Women of Today Community
Chatting With Camila Alves McConaughey About Her Women of Today Community
Living well takes a village

Sept. 11, 2020


South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW 2014, SXSW Film 2014, Ping Pong Summer, narrative, feature, Michael Tully

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle