Wonderfully capturing the essence of the era both visually and musically, Tully tells the story of Radical Miracle, a young boy obsessed with ping pong and hip hop – something that turns out to be a delightfully brilliant combination. The audience follows the Miracle family as they embark on their annual family vacation to Maryland, where Radical encounters his first crush, racist bullies (and ping pong nemesis) and a very unexpected friendship.
It’s a very endearing coming of age story, beautifully showcasing the triumphs and pitfalls of those early teenage years, even if it’s sometimes executed n a rather predictable fashion. From the lack of culinary experience, as documented in the opening scenes, to highlighting the awkwardness of teenage social interaction, Michael Tully – both the writer and director – takes the audience through the various experiences of the average awkward teenager.
The strength of the characters really propels the film. Each and every character, even the heartless bullies, feel as though they’re completely three dimensional and real. Through the use of a love for ping pong, the characters (and the audience) are taken on an adventure of self discovery. There’s a fantastic sprinkle of humour with every scene, particularly to be watched out for in the final ping pong match.
The acting is absolutely faultless. Myles Massey is the stand-out performance as Radical’s best friend Teddy – certainly one to watch for the future. The role of outcast neighbour Randi Jammer is perfectly portrayed by Susan Sarandon, exceptionally balancing the tough love persona. And it cannot go without mentioning Marcello Conte, in his film debut, as lead character Radical Miracle – he embodies this teenage outsider with an engaging amount of heart and warmth.
It would be a crime if the absolutely brilliant soundtrack that accompanies this film was not mentioned. Each song, with the hip hop beats and melodic keys, elevates each and every scene. It’s rare to find examples whereby the soundtrack completely encompasses everything that the film is and serves to add such a level of enjoyment – including a faultless moonwalk…
Perhaps where the film is let down is through the predictability of the story.
The way it is told almost follows the formulaic pattern of other coming-of-age stories that have been shown time and time before: teenager feels like an outsider, teenager gets bullied, teenager has first crush, teenager overcomes all obstacles. F
rom the get go, it seems obvious that hopeless ping pong enthusiast Radical Miracle will progress to be a not-so-hopeless ping pong enthusiast after all. Whilst it’s a narrative told in such an endearing way and perhaps that’s all it’s meant to be, but sometimes it feels as though a curveball would be beneficial. However what you can’t deny is how the brilliance of the characters, the acting and that soundtrack make Ping Pong Summer a charming watch.
Ping Pong Summer is out now on DVD.
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