I first saw this film last year at the BFI London Film Festival, there was also a nice little Q&A afterwards with the producers and writer/director Michael Tully which was interesting, more on that later.
The year is 1985 and Rad Miracle (some fun coming up with that name I bet), played by Marcello Conte, is a shy 13-year old who is obsessed with hip hop and…ping pong. As the family takes their annual vacation to Ocean City, Maryland, the movie hits its stride and becomes a warm, funny, coming of age and overcoming adversity film. Rad gets his first real crush on a girl, begins to get bullied by the local rich kids and finds a ping-pong mentor in his odd next-door neighbour Randi Jammer (yes really), played by the ever wonderful Susan Sarandon.
The 80’s feel of the film comes across throughout but is never over the top or done for the sake of it. Rad’s father Brendan, played by John Hannah (The Mummy, Four Weddings and a Funeral) is typical of a father, cringe-inducing at all times.
Susan Sarandon is just wonderful as the Mr. Miyagi style character, training Rad in the ways of ping-pong so he can defeat the bullies at the local amusement centre and hopefully win the girl. Sarandon is apparently a ping-pong aficionado herself, owning a number of bars (if that’s what they’re called) in the US.
If the story and overall feel of the film reminds you of the Karate Kid movie then that’s absolutely fine. The producers and writer/director were completely happy to name-check the film as something to be aimed for, to give that vibe back to the movies once more. And you know what, they achieve it.
Ping Pong Summer may not have the same sort of nostalgia and following in years to come as Karate Kid does now. But it’s a wonderful, funny, warming nostalgic story that speaks of a time when everyone was trying to beatbox, but failing, and walking round with massive stereos on their shoulder trying to look cool…and failing and obviously playing ping-pong!
You can watch Ping Pong Summer on We Are Colony – www.wearecolony.com – from the 6th November 2015.