Daily | Sundance + Rotterdam 2014 | Michael Tully’s PING PONG SUMMER

Ping Pong Summer

‘Ping Pong Summer’

It’s traveled from Park City to Rotterdam, and we begin with Kyle Burton at Indiewire: “With Ping Pong Summer, director Michael Tully (Cocaine Angel, Septien) gives us a film about the childhood he remembers: summers in Ocean City, Maryland (where the film was shot), cheesy arcade games, pastels, Nike, and hip hop. Caught up in it all, Radford Miracle (Marcello Conte) searches for the confidence that promises adulthood. It’s the 1980s: These are harsh times in bland, touristy coast towns. With an exuberant eye for period details, Tully presents an ode to a time many recall fondly for its flare and schlock alike.”

Tully’s “affectionate scripting of the plot and characters is confirmed by a sometimes too-gentle approach behind the camera, bypassing opportunities to sharpen the tone and action by a few more critical degrees,” finds the Hollywood Reporter‘s Justin Lowe. “Cinematography that’s a bit grainy and soft around the edges creates the appropriate vintage film look to accompany the pop-driven soundtrack. (Phentermine) Rose-tinted as the film’s perspective may be, Ping Pong Summer is still a lingering, entertaining glance back at an era that Americans just can’t seem to get enough of, whether in music or movies.”

But for the Dissolve‘s Nathan Rabin, it’s “constructed crudely and shabbily from shopworn elements: the bland protagonist coming of age during a summer vacation at a shitty seaside resort, the popular dream girl, the nerdy best friend, bullies, the vaguely goth sister, the spooky neighbor everyone whispers about (a role not even Susan Sarandon can redeem). It’s not without its merits, though.”

Ping Pong Summer

‘Ping Pong Summer’

Back on the other hand, Screen‘s Mark Adams concedes that it “may well feel rather familiar, but there is a lot of good-natured and very accessible fun to be had.” What’s more, “the young cast bring a lot of sweet-natured energy.”

“If you didn’t live through the ’80s, my guess is that Ping Pong Summer will feel like a ridiculous trip to an alien planet,” writes EW‘s Chris Nashawaty. “But if you did (guilty as charged), then the film is guaranteed to make you smile and possibly overlook its corny thinness. It doesn’t hurt that the message of Ping Pong Summer—the importance of appreciating the most awesome moment of your life as its happening—is as timeless as Mr. Mister’s pop anthem ‘Broken Wings.’”

Interviews with Tully: Michael Dunaway (Paste), Eugene Hernandez (Daily Buzz) and Dan Schoenbrun for Filmmaker, where Alexandra Byer talks with production designer Bart Mangrum.

Updates, 2/1: For Calum Marsh, dispatching to, Ping Pong Summer is “a cool ninety minutes of vapid 80s fetishism packaged to resemble a proper feature film, a memory-baiting time-sink for twenty-somethings eager to mainline nostalgia at length. It’s symptomatic of our dismally YouTube-steeped imaginations, and I suppose we shouldn’t really be surprised.”

At Paste, Tim Grierson finds that “Ping Pong Summer gets all its comic mileage out of its affection for mid-’80s detritus—not just the cultural artifacts of the era but also the period’s coming-of-age sports movies—and while that’s a thin thread on which to hang a whole film, there’s enough goodwill and charm here for it to work.”

“Sarandon is the gritty pearl among a clutch of young, endearing amateurs Tully found mostly in the Maryland area,” writes Chris Michael for the Guardian. “John Hannah and Lea Thompson as Mr. and Mrs. Miracle join her in giving the kids space to practise their moves in a warm and supportive movie environment. It’s gawky and awkward, but just like Rad’s breakdancing worm, this one gets better as it goes along.”

Update, 2/3: Gravitas Ventures has picked up rights, reports Indiewire‘s Nigel M. Smith.

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