There are certain things that are staples of life growing up in Maryland, right outside of D.C. The seasons mean nothing because it can snow in March and be 70 degrees in November. Whether you eat them or not, you will know how to properly break apart and eat a crab before 5th grade. And when it came to family summer vacations, everyone went to Ocean City, MD. Ocean City is similar to most beach towns we remember from our youth. Full of days on the sand, nights on the boardwalk, stuffing your faces with Thrashers french fries or Ponzetti’s pizza. My childhood summers were full of this stuff and I still get a thrill going back there today. So needless to say when I heard that “Ping Pong Summer” was filmed in Ocean City and took place in 1985 I knew I had to see it.
“Ping Pong Summer” follows the formula of all good 80’s teenage films. Our star Rad Miracle, played by newcomer Marcello Conte, heads to the beach on a summer vacation with his family. There he makes friends with Teddy Fryy, another new comer Myles Massey, who takes him to the secret arcade where Rad can play his favorite pastime, ping pong. We have bullies that show up, the cute local girl, crazy neighbors, all leading to a series of events that culminate in a ping pong tournament against the town bully.
The teenagers in the film, most of which have done no film acting before, are all really good. The stand out for me was Emmi Shockley, who plays the local love interest Stacy Summers. How a girl born in 1997 was able to personify the perfect 80’s girl says a true testament to the filmmakers. Can Rad trust Stacy when everyone knows she’s addicted to “Funk Punch” (a mixture of slurpee, pixie sticks, pop rocks, and possibly cocaine)?
The highlight of the film are the adults. Writer and director Michael Tully paid homage to those great 80’s movies by casting staples like Lea Thompson as Rad’s mom and Susan Sarandon as crazy neighbor Randi Jammer. They both did outstanding jobs in completely different ways of assisting young Rad and progressing the story along.
I enjoyed this film a lot but will admit that a portion of that enjoyment was from nostalgia. Seeing the same arcades, locations, and hang out spots that I used to be seen at in the 80’s hit me straight in the heart. Trying to keep that aside, the movie was still good. It had a great throwback feel and that’s exactly what Tully wanted. The music, the clothes (oh my the clothes), and the fact that he even shot the whole thing on Super 16 make it fit perfectly among those 80’s favorites. Be aware that the score may be a point or so higher just based off of my own love for Ocean City, MD.
I give it 7 pixie stick-laced slurped out of 10