Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Ping Pong Playa
Oscar winner Jessica Yu takes a break from making documentaries. Her first non-documentary feature "Ping Pong Playa" (USA 2007, 96 min.) is a delightful entertaining comedy about an Asian ping pong family with a son who is, to quote Jessica Yu, "smart, profane, buffoonish, and hilarious." In this comedy, writer/director Jessica Yu and writer/actor Jimmy Tsai create a few likable and amusing characters, and blend in commentaries about social and racial stereotypes.
Slacker Christopher "C-dub" Wang (Jimmy Tsai) has a hoop dream but is a few inches short and stuck in a suburban Asian family that devotes to ping pong: his mom teaches ping pong in a community center, his dad runs a ping pong supply store, and his doctor brother (Roger Fan) is a ping pong champion.
After a serious mishaps causing by C-dub, he ends up teaching a ping pong class of misfit kids, then he goes on to use the class to make more cash by gambling on ping pong games. However, a challenge from a non-Asian rival for the National Golden Cock Tournament title makes C-dub finally to take the game seriously, although he still dreams to be a pro-basketball player.
I am usually skeptical when I see a film is labeled as comedy, because many of them hardly funny. However, this film makes me laugh out so loud that I thought I was screaming, and I were only giggling when I was watching "Juno." I hope writer/director Jessica Yu will make more comedies like this. Jimmy Tsai's acting debut proves that his great talent not only lives behind the camera, but also shines in front of it.
Many comic moments come from daily lives, which make me wonder if they might be lifted out from filmmaker's real life. For example, C-dub turns on the TV with his toes so he can play video game the first thing after waking up in the morning. This must have come from real life observation, rather than pure imagination. Although the ping pong tournament plot is a little formulaic, the film works due to its sarcastic satire and its overall quality, and mostly because it's extremely funny.
The Asian hip-hop sound track also makes the film more cheerful and refreshing. I don't normally eat cereal, but the sound track "I Love Cereal" wants me to have a bowl of cereal, especially after watching how much C-dub enjoys it. However, I will stay away from Ping Pong though so I don't have to wear those tight shorts C-dub was wearing in the film.
After a successful tour among prestigious film festivals, including the 26th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), "Ping Pong Playa" opens in theaters on Friday, September 5.