A huge hit in its native Japan, Ping-Pong is an exhilarating and endearing tale of childhood friends. Set against a sporting backdrop, it's a film full of style, arresting imagery and energy. Despite fundamental differences in temperament, the cocky, outgoing Peco (Yosuke Kubozuka) and the reserved, ironically named Smile (Arata) remain friends into their teenage years. Star ping-pong players for their school, the pair hit personal crises that affect both their lives and their game. Based on the five-volume manga by Taiyo Matsumoto, Fumihiko Sori's debut picture is marked by unpredictable plot and character developments, an appealing lack of cynicism and some of the most exciting, imaginative sporting sequences ever committed to film. Shot through with self-deprecating humour, this is an enchanting tale, beautifully told.
Somewhere in Ping Pong there is an interesting film trying to break out. What we have is an interesting social drama that could make for a captivating documentary with some focus, but instead it is littered with poor attempts at humour. The actual matches themselves are well presented, but a large proportion of the characters are cut from the same zany and ill-judged cloth. One moment Ping Pong is trying to be Rocky, another American Pie and in the end you just want it to end.