Ping Pong Playa

2008, Movie, PG-13, 96 mins


Documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu's first fiction feature, a send-up of sports movies that pokes gentle fun at the Los Angeles Chinese community through a trash-talking basketball fanatic who gets roped into the desperately uncool world of ping pong.

Christopher "C-Dog" Wang (co-writer Jimmy Tsai) has spent his life in the shadow of older brother Michael (Roger Fan). Michael has always made his parents proud: Not only is he a successful doctor, but he dominates the Golden Cock Ping Pong championship, driving students to his mother's classes and customers to the family ping pong supply business. C-Dog is an underemployed baby man who still lives at home, playing video games, reading comics, obsessing about the cruel trick of genetic fate he's convinced kept him out of the NBA and hearing racial insults in innocuous remarks. But when a fender bender sidelines both his mother and brother with wrist injuries, C-Dog is forced to take over her classes at the Chinese community center and Michael's place in the tournament. Can he sharpen his long-dormant skills and uphold the Wang family's honor?

Yu and Tsai knows the clichés of uplifting sports pictures and take obvious delight in skewering pushy Asian parents, their overachieving children and various aspects of Asian-American life. The comedy is broad, the kids C-Dog eventually grows to love are cute and the villain – upstart ping pong instructor Gerald Harcourt (Peter Paige), a faux Brit who tries to steal Mrs. Wang's students – eminently hissable. The result has a certain silly, kid-friendly charm, and Yu astutely chose to clean up C-Dog's profane language by "bleeping" the harsher bits with the sound of a bouncing basketball. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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