Ping Pong

Ping Pong (2002) 
Director: Fumihiko (Sori) Masuri

"Ping Pong" tells the story of two long time friends, Peco (Yosuke Kubozuka) and Smile (Arata), and their involvement in the fiercely competitive world of high school table tennis. Peco is an egotistical loudmouth while Smile (named because he never does so) is a much better player but has been intentionally losing to Peco for years. Tournament time rolls around and Peco loses to two-time champion Dragon. Smile beats Dragon in the next round so Peco gives up ping pong and spends his days hanging out in arcades playing video games. An old woman who runs a local ping pong hall convinces Peco to play again and works to get him back into shape.

One may brush off this movie because it's about a sport which doesn't get much attention, particularly in the USA. However, the film goes far beyond the sport or the competition, it's about friendships, growing up, and learning to be true to oneself. The performances in the film are amazing, each character is played with such conviction that at times I nearly forgot that these were actors playing roles. Visuals are also stunning, from views tracking ping pong balls as they travels at insane speeds to one amazing scene where two players reach a Zen-like state of happiness in the middle of a crucial tournament game. The tournament scenes convey an extreme sense of excitement and put the viewer right in the middle of the whole thing allowing them to feel the stress of the competition and the tension between players. "Ping Pong" is a breath of fresh air in the sports comedy genre which has been (for the most part) seriously lacking in anything creative or fresh, at least since "Shaolin Soccer". See this movie as soon as you get the chance!



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