Film Review: PING PONG SUMMER (written and directed by Mike Tully)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on May 31, 2014

in Film


Michael Tully, the writer and director of Ping Pong Summer, seems like a sweet guy, so I’ll try and be brief. Sitting through his movie, which attempts to both imitate and parody the 1980’s American coming-of-age formula film, feels like a punishment; imagine chewing soap or drinking castor oil for 90 minutes. With incompetent direction, an inane script, and a camera that feels unwieldy, the only thing worth salvaging in this shipwreck is the art direction (though the production design overall lacks a voice); the unfortunate cast, which includes some serious actors – Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, John Hannah, et al – doesn’t stand a chance.


Set in 1986, Ping Pong Summer follows 13-year-old Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte), as he goes on holiday with his family to a New England beach town. There he is befriended by a Jheri curl-sporting black boy named Teddy (Myles Massey), is inexplicably flirted with by the hot older blond girl Stacy (Emmi Shockley), and is bullied by the local jock Lyle (Joseph McCaughtry), whom Rad finally challenges to a ping pong showdown – ping pong being the local currency of cool. But as he is an inept player, Rad must first get a lesson from Randi (Susan Sarandon), a creepy neighbor who turns out to have been a table tennis champion. Ms. Sarandon is one of the two performers I wasn’t embarrassed for in this film (the other being Helena May Seabrook as Rad’s sister Michelle); the sense I get is that someone other than Mr. Tully wrote Ms. Sarandon’s dialogue.


Above I compare this film to a shipwreck, but that implies that there was something resembling a ship to begin with. Ping Pong Summer is more like a raft built by 10-year-olds – ill-conceived and executed with blissful ignorance. The problems with it are fundamental ones, and Mr. Tully would be well advised to study the crafts associated with filmmaking before attempting to make another movie.


photos courtesy of Gravitas Ventures


Ping Pong Summer
Gravitas Ventures
USA | color | 92 min
on VOD and limited release in theaters on June 6, 2014

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