A sports-movie send-up in extreme miniature (budget- and otherwise), Ping Pong Playa has all the stock genre ingredients: an underachieving protagonist, nerdy minions and sneering adversaries, an unattainable hottie and a come-from-behind big-game finale. The setup, like the jokes (largely delivered in middle-class-suburbanite faux ghettoese), has been trotted out a million times before, and the movie’s novel SoCal Chinese-American milieu only partially excuses the familiarity.Web-commercial microceleb and gifted motormouth comic Jimmy Tsai plays Christopher “C-Dub” Wang, the smart-aleck slacker scion of a Southland table-tennis dynasty who dreams—if that’s the right word—of NBA stardom. He settles for scamming the athletically challenged students of his parents’ (Lau and Sung) Ping Pong school, and generally behaves in a grotesquely age-inappropriate fashion before manning up to defend the family honor in the Golden Cock Ping Pong Tournament.Its mobile-phone-market visual and narrative aspirations aside, Ping Pong Playa’s most compelling aspect is director-coscreenwriter Jessica Yu’s versatility. Though she’s best known for a contemplative 2004 doc portrait of artist Henry Darger, Yu’s interest here is adamantly in the realms of the disposably frivolous.
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