xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
It takes a while for "Ping Pong Summer," a coming of age story set in 1985, to settle into a formulaic groove. This stands to reason since writer/director Michael Tully, director of the disorienting anti-bromantic comedy "Septien," has been rewriting and planning to make "Ping Pong Summer" since 1992. The film's relentlessly quirky style of comedy is consequently very self-conscious. Every joke in "Ping Pong Summer" is a variation on a theme: 1985 was the most awkward time to be alive. Everything in "Ping Pong Summer," from fancy-dress buffets to sexually liberated aunts and uncles, establishes the '80s as an era of monumental social distress. Because apparently there's nothing more distressing than a time when The Fat Boys was a thing.
Tully's monomaniacal brand of humor is often tedious since his film's hormonally-charged world is largely established by goony, carbon-dated dialogue like "Oh, dang," and "I'm not frontin' around." But "Ping Pong Summer"'s ensemble cast is great at hitting the same notes over and over again. And, while this isn't an especially high bar to clear, Tully does nail the conventions of the teen comedies he emulates. So while "Ping Pong Summer" does aggressively pander to viewers' nostalgia (dig that Nike track suit, and Run-D.M.C. cassette tape!), it's also warmer and funnier than its worst jokes.
Radford Miracle (Marcello Conte) is not just any lonely 13 years-old doofus. Being a product of his environment, Rad is very social inept. For example, any child of the '90s or '00s could witlessly hard-boil an egg in a microwave, but Rad does it while beatboxing.
During his family's annual summer vacation to Ocean City, Maryland, Rad's activities include being picked on by disaffected goth sister Michelle (Helena May Seabrook), and playing ping pong with new Jheri-curled friend Teddy Fryy (Myles Massey in his hysterical debut role). Rad also likes popular girl Stacy Summers (Emmi Shockley), and therefore stumbles into a romance-and-table-tennis rivalry with W.A.S.P. bully Lyle Ace (Joseph McCaughtry). Also, because the '80s really were a different time, Rad has a friendly reclusive neighbor named Randi Jammer (Susan Sarandon). So, to win the girl and have the best summer ever, Rad must do the worm, and beat the rich kid in a high-stakes game of ping pong.