I’m going out on a limb and saying that many of you have never heard of today’s movie. I don’t even think I ever heard of it until I heard it brought up on the Cult Film Club podcast (a part of the Atomic Geeks Podcast Network™). They talked about the movie and how they were going to do a future episode on it. I was very happy to see that this movie was available for free through Amazon Prime, and even happier to see that they just put up the episode devoted to today’s movie a couple days ago. Today’s feature film is 2014’s Ping Pong Summer.
To be honest, I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this movie. I knew it was set in the 80s, but I didn’t remember a lot of detail from the short discussion CFC had on the movie (and I’ve yet to listen to the episode. That’ll be tomorrow.) I wasn’t sure if it was an R rated sex-teen-comedy, hell I didn’t even watch the trailer at any point prior to watching the movie today.
I just knew that it was an independent film set in the 80s, based in Maryland, and had something to do with ping pong. That was the full breadth of knowledge going in and I think that helped with my viewing.
Let me give you the quick plot summary of the movie. It’s 1985, the Miracle family (yes that is their last name) head to the beach for a family vacation. There, the son, Rad (yes that is his first name), meets his best friend, plays ping pong, meets a girl, and some bullys, and ends up challenging the main bully to one ping pong match to settle their beef once and for all.
That’s basically it I think.
I’m going to be perfectly honest about this movie. It’s an independent film, and a lot of the actors are unknown. In fact, many of them have never acted before, and it kinda showed. The two main kids sometimes gave awkward line readings, as did the bullys. At first I was chalking it up to bad acting, and it really wasn’t great acting, but then I realized – kids are awkward. They talk awkward. They act awkward. I was 9 turning 10 years old in the summer of 1985. I’m sure I came off weird and awkward. I’m sure I still do.
What this movie did for me was just help me reminisce. You can tell that this was a very personal project for the writer/director, Michael Tully. I am sure that many of what happens and where it happens were based on things that he’s seen or he’s done in his life as a kid.
When I was a kid, really up until I was in college, I would spend a few weeks every summer in Salisbury, MA at a family beach cottage with my grandparents. At school I had my school friends. I home I had my best friends. Those two groups rarely overlapped. Then there were the beach friends. These were kids that I would literally only see those few weeks every year (give or take a rare day when my family went to the beach for a day). The world got smaller (and some streams were crossed) when I ended up going to high school with one of my beach friends. And to this day, the two guys I was friendly with the most (including my HS classmate) and I keep in touch thanks to Facebook.
Seeing Rad and his friend Teddy meet and then become fast friends, it just took me back to a simpler time. The whole movie really reminded me of being a kid again. That alone made it enjoyable to me, even with the awkward acting – and one of the bully kids gives an incredibly strange, and not really that enjoyable, performance. I think he may have actually been in love with the other bully, but they never touched on that.
The movie is what it is. It’s a very simple premise, on a very small budget, with mostly unknown, inexperienced actors. But there was something about it that just endeared me to it.
A few things to note:
- The movie was shot on 16mm film to give it an look that seemed more authentic for the 80s.
- I say the movie is mostly made up of unknowns, and that is true for the kids – but not for the adults. There were small roles played by Judah Friedlander and Amy Sedaris, who may not be household names but are both familiar faces. Rad’s parents were played by John Hannah (from the Mummy movies, not the Patriots) and Lea Thompson (yeah, Marty McFly’s mom).
- Probably the biggest actor in the movie was Susan Sarandon. She played the mysterious next door neighbor that turns out to be a former ping pong champion and helps train Rad. I know it sounds silly, but she actually does a nice job in the roll. What’s funnier is that in real life Susan Sarandon is a huge ping-pong fan to the point where she opened a ping-pong themed bar.
Not a great movie. Not great acting. But it sparked some great memories and it had me smiling at the end. Not much more you can ask for.