Ping Pong Summer Blu-ray Review
Nostalgia can be a lot of fun. Ping Pong Summer
the latest in a number of films to remember this idea and to carry it
it's independently minded (and produced) journey. This film is a love
the joy of the 80's and the good times that the filmmaker experienced
classic 80's cinema and music. For viewers who loved the 1980's (and
who didn't?!) this is something that evokes some of that same
magic that the film's characters experience. Time for Icees,
pong, dancing, and to get that swell summer groovin' along! Yeah!
someone say 'awesome'?)
The story focuses on 13 year old Rad Miracle
Conte) and his epic summer of fun vacation set to ping pong, beach
hip-hop music, and making new friends. Summer
fun and self discovery are key components
of the journey. The vacation starts as unexpectedly slowly as some
of their own vacations, but quickly becomes a wondrous thing when Rad
new best friend and the two soon share in a greatly entertaining summer
vacation of listening to tunes, having a first crush, and spending an
incredible amount of time simply goofing off with style.
As the story unfolds, the core obstacle of the
film is a
ping pong competition. Rad and his friend must face off rich racist
a competitive ping pong extravaganza, and the storytelling is focused
on the looming stakes of whether or not Rad can defeat the bullies,
sense of self-worth, and "get the girl" - his summer crush Stacy
Summers (Emmi Shockley), a popular girl who has both a crush for Rad
and a odd
off-and-on relationship with Rad's bully competition. Can Rad be
amazing and defeat those no-cool buzz-kills? The film's showdown
whether he can be a master pong champ or be left merely to fizzle.
Helping Rad against the competition is a master of
craft: Ping Pong expert and winning competitive player Randi Jammer
by the real-life Ping Pong aficionado Susan Sarandon), who trains him
up to the big competition with her own skills and the expertise needed
Rad is given essential words of wisdom from Jammer to 'focus'
everything on the
ball and on nothing else. This tip-top tip helps him to perfect his
The story also implements Rad's time spent with
including Dad Miracle (John Hannah), Mom Miracle (Lea Thompson), and
Michelle (Helena May Seabrook). In fleeting moments, the story focuses
visits to fellow (obnoxious) relatives, a food 'extraordinaire' buffet
American buffet classics, and the quiet moments between competitive
The story gains some extra heart by having such moments and emphasizing
dynamics - even if it remains a backdrop to the summer fun.
Writer/director Michael Tully does a good job
magic of the 80's throughout. If everything was a bit less humorous and
as the effort seemed to aspire to, it's nonetheless an effective recall
80's with the high nostalgia felt today. While the fundamental backdrop
film is summer vacation, the film manages to convey the significantly
culture of the 80's well and a large reason for this is Tully's good
understanding of the time period.
Tully knows that the 80's were a sweeter, gentler
many regards and seems to want to convey that vibe - thus the focus on
time of teenage youth and the good times that occurred. The cast does a
job of working with the material and bringing the respective characters
in a way that makes the film more fun and enjoyable. While the pacing
sometimes a bit slow or relaxed, it seems to fit the tone and
film is aiming towards with this slice-of-life throwback film. The
and stylistic flairs are generally impressive and seem to perfectly
the time and spirit.
The efforts of those involved in the costume
make-up, and hair-styling have also significantly aided the efforts of
a filmmaker as these components were really quite amazingly well done
convey the time in a way that is believable and impressive for a
feature production. Filming was done
entirely in Ocean City, Maryland and the location perfectly fits the
Tully grew up in this area and was able to recreate a wonderful sense
locations aesthetics of the time, including an emphasis on the various
billboards and store signs that one can easily imagine existing during
time. These design elements aid the
film's aura and increase the enjoyment one feel's taking a ride
filmmaker's hip (hoppin') nostalgia trip.
There are other elements of the production that
also aid the
story quite well. The music in the film works well to bring to mind
with every turn of the story. While the songs that appear in the film
mostly obscure, the sound and energy of them fits the time frame well.
Score-wise, the music by Michael Montes feels perfectly in line with
and vibe in every frame of the film. The goal of director Tully and
Montes clearly had good synergy that worked well.
Also aiding the effectiveness of the production is
stylish and perfectly retro cinematography with the same senilities in
one would find in actual films from the 80's. At the director's
Pong Summer was filmed utilizing Super 16 mm film stock and this
combined with the color palette, naturalistic film grain, and aesthetic
of the director of photography Wyatt Garfield makes the film's
mood created so much more effective and enjoyable. The nostalgia
seems to literally bounce off of the screen with these stylish and
The cast is largely wonderful here. The lead actor
Conte was perfectly cast as Rad Miracle. The supporting players all do
impressive work in their respective roles and these performances
film on many levels. It was a bit of a joy to see these actors in
parts here. Sarandon is a huge Ping Pong fan in real life so her
is completely notable, and her performance effectively elevates many
the film. The genius inclusion of Lea Thompson, in a fun (if small)
part was a
nice touch (as was the quick recall to Back to the Future with
background DeLorean parked in a car lot during one smart sequence).
While the film's simplicity and lack of great
be a bit disappointing, the mood and spirit of the story is effectively
conveyed from everyone involved in this production and it's an
throwback to simpler times. The production elements were consistently
impressive. The characters are great and the story being told by Tully
interesting and charming one that is sure to leave smiles on audiences
credits roll. This film would make an excellent night of fun during
any) summer and is a commendable and creative effort worth seeking out.
This MPEG-4 AVC encoded Blu-ray release presents
the film in
1080p High Definition. The film was produced utilizing Super 16 mm film
and while this results in some softness inherent in the style employed,
the perfect type of film to maintain an authentic and believable look
One could easily mistake this film for being
something made around
the 1985 setting if it weren't for the obvious inclusions of popular
beloved in various 80's productions appearing here after the amount of
that transpired. Everything about the film's cinematic aesthetic works
here and this Blu-ray release is a quality one that manages to present
aura effectively from the 2K Digital Intermediate.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD is pretty good for the most
works well with this type of film. There isn't a lot going on in the
but the use of music is well implemented for some occasional surround
the mostly simple front-stage mix seems befitting for this 80's
inspired film. The lossless audio is well
defined and capable
of presenting the dialogue well.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are provided.
This release contains two supplements: Audio Commentary with writer/director Michael
Tully and producer George Rush and Lazer Beach: The Making of Ping
Summer (14 min., HD) which features interviews with production
discussing their roles on the film, the film itself is discussed, and
making-of showcases some behind the scenes footage from during
Ping Pong Summer is a film that will
audiences with a good bit of summer fun and 80's throwback magic. The
performances and these offbeat characters help to make this movie quite
enjoyable. The production elements are spot on in recreating an 80's
throughout. This is a good Blu-ray release with quality PQ/AQ and a
supplements, making this release a worthwhile purchase for fans.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.