You may define your own banner on the settings page.
FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
Dave Chua
Brandon Wee
Wong Lung Hsiang
Felix Cheong
Foong Ngai Hoe
Adrian Sim
Chris Khoo
O Thiam Chin
Lau Chee Nien
Ambient Noise
Sarhan Rashid
Ying Wuen
Ellery Ngiam
Toh Hai Leong
Toh Hai Leong, Auteur
Wong Kar Wai
The Seduction of Wong Kar Wai
Tsai Ming Liang
Lav Diaz
Mikio Naruse
Leslie Cheung
Jonathan Foo Interview
Chinese Ghosts
Assassins in Asian FIlms
Sex in Asian Cinema
Erotic Cinema of the Shaw Studios
Homosexuality in Chinese Films
My Left Eye Sees Creativity
Hollywood Remakes
Comic Book Superheroes
One League of Social Consciousness
Emerging Trends in East Asian Cinema
Postwar Korean Cinema
Decline of Hong Kong Cinema before 1997
Rise of Afghan Films
Singapore's Mini Cinema
Creating A Singapore Cinema
Why Cinema is Important to Singapore
Singapore Film Industry
Rites of Passage
Replying to Critics
Daniel Yun Interview
Singapore International Film Festival
Bangkok International Film Festival
Tokyo International Film Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Writer's Block
All Tomorrow's Parties
And Also the Eclipse
Another Heaven
At Five in the Afternoon
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Bangkok Haunted
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Batang West Side
Battle Royale
Bear Hug
Beautiful Boxer
Beijing Rocks
Bend It Like Beckham
Best of Times
Betelnut Beauty
Big Durian
Big Shot's Funeral
Bird Man Tale
Blissfully Yours
Blue Kite
Bounce Ko Gals
Brighter Summer Day, A
Cafe Lumiere
Cat Returns
Chinese Odyssey 2002
City of Glass
City Sharks
Color of the Truth
Color Blossoms
Confucian Confusion
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Dark Water
Destination 9th Heaven
Divine Intervention
Double Vision
Dumlings: 3 Extremes
Enter the Phoenix
Era of Vampire, The
Eye, The
Eye 2, The
Eye 10, The
Fat Choy Spirit
Floating Weeds
Fog of War, The
Formula 17
Full Alert
Ghost in the Shell
God or Dog
Golden Chicken
Golden Chicken 2
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Guru, The
Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
Harold and Kumar
Hidden Blade, The
House of Flying Daggers
House of Fury
House of Sand and Fog
Howl's Moving Castle
I Not Stupid
In the Mood for Love
Infernal Affairs
Infernal Affairs III
Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2
Iron Ladies 2
Isle, The
Jan Dara
Jealousy is My Middle Name
Joint Security Area
Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
July Rhapsody
Korban Fitnah
Kung Fu Hustle
Lan Yu
Last Life in the Universe
Last Samurai, The
Legend of Zu, The
Liang Po Po
Love Letter
Lucky Number
Marry a Rich Man
Me Thao
Medallion, The
Monrak Transistor
Moveable Feast, A
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Musa the Warrior
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts
My Neighbors The Yamadas
My Sassy Girl
Naked Weapon
Name of a River, The
New Police Story
Nobody Knows
Nobody Knows How to be a Film Critic
One Leg Kicking
Perfect Blue
Phone, The
Ping Pong
Pirated Copy
Princess D
River, The
Road Home
Romance of Book and Sword
Runaway Pistol
S Diary
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
Scent of Green Papaya
Seoul Raiders
Seventeen Years
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai Knights
Shaolin Soccer
Singapore Gaga
Skywalk is Gone
So-Called Friends
So Close
Someone Special
Song of the Stork
Spider Forest
Spirited Away
Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring
Stories About Love
Storm Riders
Summer Holiday
Sumpah Pontianak
Super Size Me
Surprise Party
Swing Girls
Tale of Two Sisters, A
Tears of the Black Tiger
Teenage Textbook Movie
This Charming Girl
Three: Extremes
Tokyo Raiders
Touch, The
Tree, The
Truth or Dare
Twelve Storeys
Twenty-Four Eyes
Twins Effect
Twins Effect 2
Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors
Visitor Q
Volcano High
Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Way Home, The
Welcome Back Mr McDonald
Wesley's Mysterious File
When I Fall In Love With Both
Wishing Stairs
Wolves Cry Under the Moon
Woman is the Future of Man
Women's Private Parts
World Without Thieves, A
Zombie Dog
A Time to Live A Time to Die
e-mail me

   Ping Pong  


Ping Pong

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Director: Sori Fumihiko
Screenplay: Kudo Kankuro
Cast: Kubozuka Yosuke, Arata, Sam Lee, Ookura Koji
Genre: Comedy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Year Released: 2002
Runtime: 114 min
Rating: **½ (out of four stars)

Based on a Japanese manga of the same title (drawn by Taiyo Matsumoto), Ping Pong, as the name suggests, is about table tennis. The marketing for the film seems to portray it as the typical sports comedy - high-octane sports sequences peppered with laughs along the way (and usually some tears somewhere along the line too). This is not what Ping Pong is - it is undoubtedly a sports movie, but one that moves at a languorous pace, and rather contemplative in nature. It will probably not satisfy audiences that are looking for light entertainment, and it’s highly likely the only people who will truly enjoy this film will be fans of the manga itself.

Best friends Peco (the wildly popular Yosuke Kubozuka) and Smile (Arata) - who is called that because he doesn’t - have been playing ping pong since young. Peco is talented and always out to win, but Smile simply views the sport as a game, and as a chance to spend some time with Peco, whom he looks up to. What Peco doesn’t realize is that Smile is actually an even better player, but has been intentionally losing to him all this while. Their school coach Butterfly Joe (Naoto Takenaka - last seen in Waterboys in almost an exact copy of this role) is convinced that he can turn Smile into a winner at the upcoming tournament, but Smile just doesn’t seem to have enough fight in him to do so.

At the tournament, Peco and Smile are pitted against some of the best players around - China (Sam Lee), a Hong Kong player that has been booted off the China national team, and has decided to come to Japan to attempt a comeback; and Akuma (Koji Okura), who trains very hard, but isn’t as naturally talented as the rest. Then there is two-time winner Dragon (Shido Nakamura), who seems to be totally committed to winning, and locks himself in the toilet before every match to ready his mind. Peco is defeated in this tournament, and starts to go to seed until his mentor Obaba (Mari Natsuki) shakes him out of his funk. Months go by and another tournament is imminent - who will claim top spot this time round?

Ping Pong is actually a very predictable movie - sports movies don’t really deviate much from the standard victory-defeat-training-victory plot line, and Ping Pong is no different. Nothing is ever really that unpredictable, except perhaps for the denouement, and none of the characters perform in ways that would surprise the audience. Yet, for a film so firmly seated in the genre, Ping Pong takes a darned long time to get going - almost half of the 114-minute film is devoted to creating the relatively uninteresting back story of the characters. Director Fumihiko Masuri is a big fan of the manga, and in his devotion to the source, he has tried to put in too much of the series into the film. It’s a double-edged sword - take out too much of the story, and the film becomes less meaningful; but take out too little, and the film sags under its own weight.

It also doesn’t help that the audience is not given a payoff when it comes to the table tennis sequences. After waxing lyrical over the skills of the various opponents, the dynamism of the game is mostly lost in the extreme close ups and slow motion shots of the film. It may have been quite difficult to capture the essence of a game like table tennis, but Masuri’s camera-in-the-face style means that the competitive nature of the sport is also diminished. Also, although the film is sporadically funny, it’s almost Zen-like at times, and some of the plot threads are left still dangling at the end of the film. It’s a surprisingly heavy film to pass off as a comedy, and as I watched the film I suspected that reading the source manga beforehand would probably have enhanced my appreciation of the film. As it is, however, Ping Pong is but a mediocre sports film, and certainly won’t make any new fans of the sport.

Final Word: Running way too long for its own good, Ping Pong is entertaining at times, but the slow pacing and heavy subject matter will be too weighty for some.