Michael Tully’s comic tale of a young boy with a love for ping pong, reinventing himself during an eventful summer holiday with his family will seem familiar to anyone who’s seen a teen movie. And that’s kind of the point. Tully has written an exuberant love letter to the 80s and all its little nuances. There’s the unobtainable girl, the rich kid brat, the clothes, the music and the lessons learnt. It’s all there, albeit with the sheen scrubbed off to a certain extent. When we first meet our hero, Rad (Marcello Conte) his expert breakdance moves are shown to be expert in his mind only. He’s awkward; his two left feet having gone on holiday and been replaced with someone else’s.
And this is how it goes for the rest of the film. Kids aren’t fashion smart, parents don’t always have a speech planned and your friend isn’t automatically cool because he’s not white. It all works towards creating a world that’s less Ferris Bueller and more in line with the kids who wish they could be Bueller.
Performances are strong with Myles Massey standing out as Rad’s try too hard friend. But don’t let the marketing fool you, whilst she may stand out in the trailers, Susan Sarandon’s part is not much more than an extended cameo.
Where Ping Pong Summer loses steam is through its reliance on non-sequiturs and scatological humour. When certain scenes arise, they often leave you confused rather than making you laugh. That said, as the film progresses, it’s hard not to root for Rad as his ping pong skills are called into question in preparation for the obligatory showdown at the rec centre.
Whilst it won’t be this year’s The Way Way Back, Ping Pong Summer’s rough around the edges approach creates an enjoyable enough reason to reminiscence about those summers you never really had.