"Ping Pong Playa" -- A Must-see New Ping Pong Movie

by Robert Palgon

Sunday night, Sep. 7th, Hermann Luechinger and I went to see the San Jose debut of a terrific new independent movie, "Ping Pong Playa" -- a very funny movie that doesn't miss an opportunity to trigger a smile and a laugh. It stars a young fellow named Jimmy Tsai, who is undoubtedly destined for big things, and is directed by the Academy Award winning director, Jessica Yu.

Using the vehicle of table tennis as a centerpiece, the movie hilariously explores the trying problems of one Southern California Chinese-American family trying to cope with a son caught between two cultures -- and somewhat out-of-place in each. In the process, the film weaves in members of other ethnic minorities including Indian-Americans and African-Americans, and comically contrasts some of the problems of dealing with the cultural expectations of one's own group to the problems of dealing with the stereotypes of the dominant culture.

After the screening, the star, producer, and director conducted a "Q & A" at the theatre, and we all subsequently repaired to a local Billiards Parlour where two ping pong tables were reserved for the audience to take on Jimmy Tsai, the protagonist in the film.

Hermann and I, playing with our Hardbat Hocks, managed to hold our own against him, and had a lovely time speaking with all the people connected with the film.

The film is playing in a few selected US cities (NY, LA, and the Bay Area) -- and was originally scheduled to only run for a week, but it has since been extended an additional week. I urge everyone, while you still can, to go see this genuinely winning, tellingly-comic and quirky table tennis yarn. The movie is playing now, through Thursday evening, Sep. 18th, at the following Bay Area theatres: Sony Metreon in SF, Shattuck in Berkeley, Cinema12 in San Jose.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that we spotted several real players in the film that we, and many of you all know such as Barney Reed, Biba Golic, Mas Hashimoto, Diego Schaaf and Wei Wang. The last two served as consultants for the filmmakers. But all of these players appeared really very briefly.

Ping Pong Playa

Intrigued by Robert Palgon's review and Long and Barry's recommendation, in the Sunday afternoon, I took the light rail to San Jose downtown Camera 12 to watch the movie "Ping Pong Playa". The train stopped right in front of the theatre.

I arrived about 30 minutes ahead of time. No one was in the cinema 4. So I sneaked into cinema one to have a sneak preview of the other movie "I Served the King of England". There were only 5 people watching the movie! Nevertheless, it was a nice movie and I may go back to finish it. I went back to cinema 4 for the "Ping Pong Playa" expecting an empty hall as well. To my surprise, although it was not a full house, there was a very decent crowd! According to Robert, September 11 should have been the last day for the movie. I guess the box office was not too bad after all.

If you expect a movie like "Balls of Fury", you will be disappointed. If you want to watch high level ping pong, you will be disappointed, too. However, the movie is surprising entertaining. I wouldn't tell you too much here to ruin it movie for you. You have to watch it yourself.

By the way, in addition to the ping pong players Robert has identified (Barney Reed, Biba Golic, Mas Hashimoto, Diego Schaaf, and Wei Wang), I think I recognized one more - Adam Bobrow. He was also in the "Balls of Fury" but this time he got to say a few lines!

Here are a little bit more info for the movie:

2008 Olympic Table Tennis Venue

It is a beautiful gym - a first dedicated table tennis gym in the world!
China Daily clip:

My photo slideshow:

Higher quality still images.

ICC California State Open Videos/Slideshows

Chen Longcan and Xiao Wei Footage