An indy comedy from director Michael Tully, Ping Pong Summer focuses on Radford Miracle, a teen poised to enter high school in the fall. But first he has to make it through his family’s annual summer vacation to Ocean City, MD. The film is set in 1985. I saw it at Cinema Sundays at The Charles Theater in Baltimore. There were a couple of actual children in the audience, but other than that, I was the youngest person in the audience. And maybe that’s why I loved the movie when many of my fellow moviegoers just didn’t get it. Being a child of the 80’s myself, and a native Marylander, I was in the movie’s nostalgia sweet spot.
Rad Miracle loves two things: hip-hop and ping pong. Here’s what you need to remember about 1985: it was still weird for a white kid from Mt. Airy, MD to like hip-hop. We were still over a year away from Run–D.M.C.’s crossover Raising Hell album that would bring “Walk This Way” and “It’s Tricky” to the white suburban masses. When Rad shows up in his breaker pants, he’s the object of ridicule, not awe. Teddy, Rad’s summer vacation pal, is black, but the movie only lightly touches on race and racism.
The movie made me realize how much of a time capsule Ocean City really is. What the kids do in the film – shopping at Anthony’s, playing skeeball on the boardwalk, getting scopes pictures – are all things I do every, single summer with my own kid. At one time, I even had a white VW Cabrio. It’s true!
Most of the child actors are unknowns, but the adult cast is littered with stars: Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, John Hannah. Even the guy selling the Slurpees is 30 Rock alum Judah Friedlander. But best of all? Susan Sarandon as a total badass fish monger and ping-pong player.
The woman does not seem to age. She still looks amazing. And she’s awesome as an eccentric in an already quirky little film. See it. You won’t be disappointed.