A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ping Pong Summer is an indie coming-of-age comedy set in the summer of 1985 in Ocean City, Maryland. A Sundance Film Festival flick, the movie is fine for most teens. Expect a smattering of language ("s--t," "a--hole") and references to drugs (kids gossip about a girl who may or may not put cocaine in her Slurpees), as well as some scenes of bullying/insults/pushing and shoving. The movie will remind young viewers that if they want something, they need to practice and focus and not let others bully them into self-pity.
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What's the story?
It's the summer of 1985, and Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) is a suburban 13-year-old headed to Ocean City, Maryland, with his family. Rad, shy and awkward, is not-so-secretly into early rap and break dancing. After arriving at his family's rental house, Rad goes off exploring and meets another summer visitor, Teddy (Myles Massey), who shows him the beach destination's hottest destination for teens: the Fun Hub, a video arcade-meets-clubhouse where locals and summer kids mingle and play Pac-Man and ping pong. Throughout the summer, Rad experiences his first crush, gets bullied by two snobby rich boys, and learns to play ping pong like a pro.
Is it any good?
PING PONG SUMMER is so earnest that it feels wrong to judge it too harshly. It doesn't have much of a plot, and it's more of a nostalgic experience for fortysomethings who grew up in the '80s than a movie to which current teens can relate. With its Karate Kid -meets-Dodgeball-via-The Way Way Back elements, the movie has familiar and endearing moments, but it's too slow and forgettable to be on par with any of those other films.
The movie's missed opportunities include everything from Rad's unexplored background -- he's got a Scottish dad (John Hannah) and Southern mom (Lea Thompson, herself a veteran of iconic '80s movies like Some Kind of Wonderful and Back to the Future) to his underused sister to his predictable meet-up with eccentric neighbor Randi Jammer (Susan Sarandon). Despite the sincere performances, there's a lot to be desired in the story development. But for those looking for a nostalgic cinematic trip back to the '80s or viewers who grew up going to beach towns for summer vacation, Ping Pong Summer could be a temporarily amusing "I remember when" diversion.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Ping Pong Summer a coming-of-age story. What elements define that subgenre to you? What are your favorites, both on screen and in book form?
Is Rad's relationship with his sister and parents realistic? Do you think most siblings fight and roll their eyes at their parents?
Why do so many films feature eccentric older loners as mentors? How does Randi Jammer fit into the stereotype?
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