Saturday, 11 April 2009
Dir: Sori Fumihiko
Starring: Yosuke Kubozuka, Arata
Most sports films tell the story of a struggling underdog who makes it big (Rocky), or the high stakes of the pro leagues (Goal). Some even show sports as defeating war (Escape to Victory). Ping Pong, though, is the story of an inter-high school table tennis tournament. Does it get any more amateur?
For all that, it carries off a fair amount of tension and gets you wrapped up in the world of ping pong. It's a sport of ridiculously high speed and quick reactions. Fortunately, effective use of slo-mo and camera tricks help the viewer to keep up with what's going on. The direction is truly superb in this film and remains faithful to the manga roots.
The two main characters play off each other extremely well and ultimately push each other to new highs. Peco is a larger than life character who has all the confidence in the world until he loses. Smile plays to lose but has hidden talents that are waiting to be brought out. When they play each other in the final, one of them has to step up and be a hero.
Alongside them is a great supporting cast, including Butterfly Joe (Naoto Takenaka) who almost steals the show with his dodgy English and slightly disturbing personality (check out his role in Nodame Cantabile for another show-stealing performance).
As with many manga based films, you feel like there is quite a lot missing and some things in the plot seem to jump suddenly. Despite that, Ping Pong clocks in at 114 minutes - two hours of your life that will fly by thanks to the cheeky sense of humour, engaging story, and high-production values. Enjoy!