Paddle This!

To be perfectly blunt, Ping Pong Playa is third-rate crap. Unfunny crap. Unnecessary crap. This little entertainment is also unintentionally racist, misogynistic, homophobic, poorly acted, and shapeless. Unquestionably, if P.P.P.'s director had been a white man, he would now be receiving more opprobrium than Griffith for Birth of a Nation, the film that single-handedly revived the K.K.K.

That Jessica Yu, who gave birth to this blatantly boring bit of unwatchable celluloid, is a self-proclaimed "fifth-generation Chinese American with politically active parents," a deserved Oscar winner for her documentary short Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien, a disquieting look at a man paralyzed by polio and ensconced in an iron lung for four decades, and has helmed several other acclaimed, humane docs is nothing less than discombobulating.

Why for her very first narrative film would someone with her track record choose to co-write a screenplay about a "black-acting," Chinese-American imbecile who dreams of being a professional basket ballplayer?

"Time to get your ass up here, homie" is a prime example of P.P.P.'s dialogue. All of which raises the question that if a white person who's a "wannabe black" is called a wigger, does that make a Chinese American doing the same a chigger?

Lexicology aside, Christopher "C-dub" Wang (Jimmy Tsai) is not very good at basketball, unless he's playing against elementary school students. This fact doesn't seem to dampen his tedious bravado.

Neither does his inability to keep a job. Wang, consequently, lives at home, where he continuously plays video games and disrespects his hard-working parents and his doctor brother, who's a Ping Pong champion to boot.

However, when his bro's wrists are injured, Wang dejectedly winds up defending the family honor at the local Ping Pong championships. His main competition: a clichéd homosexual in extremely tight shorts with an equally clichéd sidekick. Throughout the film, this "queer" duo keeps coming on to little boys, allegedly wanting to teach them Ping Pong. We know better, don't we?

As for females, they don't fare any better here. Jennifer (Smith Cho) is an attractive, feminist doctoral student who gets smitten by the uneducated, creepy, charisma-less Wang. There goes the argument that women directors will depict the "fairer" sex with more dignity than their counterparts.

What's most sad here is that Asians Americans are still basically invisible on our mall screens. And, yes, the most talented Asian American actors still have a hard time getting parts unless there's a revival somewhere of Flower Drum Song. And when a part does come about, such as the Asian preacher in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, it goes to Rob Schneider.

Margaret Cho, in her brilliant concert film Notorious C.H.O., lampoons the lack of acting opportunities available to her because of her Korean genes. She recalls she used to fantasize she could be Potsie's girlfriend on Happy Days or appear on an episode of M.A.S.H.

Imitating herself as a child, Cho ponders, "Maybe I could play a hooker in something! . . . I'd be looking in the mirror: "Sucky fucky two dollar. . . Me love you long time."

Noting the difficulty of making any indie film today, let alone one delving into the lives of Asian Americans, that anyone would waste her time on detritus like this one is dispiriting. But then, Lu's not the only culprit if you believe Woody Allen, who once noted, "In Beverly Hills... they don't throw their garbage away. They make it into television shows." Maybe Lu just opted for too big a screen. - Brandon Judell brandon.jpg

Mr. Judell, who's currently teaching "Contemporary Israeli/Palestinian Cinema" at City College, has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, and dozens of other publications.

You're right! At least partially.

I apologize for the second paragraph, which is indeed hard to get through. Far too wordy and shapeless.

As for being QUEER, I take that as a complement. That's how you meant it, right? If not, please explain.

Limiting the films I review

Anonymous is absolutely right. My review reflects my background. I am convinced now that I was wrong in reviewing Ping Pong Playa. From now on I shall only critique films about odd-looking Jewish men who are lactose-intolerant and whose cat has died.

That I have taught hundreds of Asian immigrants and Asian-American students who are some of the most brilliant, talented, and well-read folks I have ever met surely does not make up for my lack of insight into a film about a unbelievably stupid, obnoxious "chigger." I bow my head in remorse.

To be honest, I know "chiggers" exist. And I have met one or two, but with so few films being made about Chinese Americans, I wonder why a humane, award-winning director would waste her time on this piece of crap. (Please note if this film had been about a "wigger," I would have hated it, too. I just wouldn't have been as sociologically freaked out.)

That Anonymous admits that if a white director had made this celluloid triviality it would have been racist I believe confirms my main points.

As for the villains not being "queer" stereotypes, I can only rejoice that this reader does not recognize those traits. That clearly means the gay community has made strides somewhere. Sadly, not during the last Californian election.

Now That's A Rebuttal!

Thanks for talking the time to share your thoughts and opinion.

This is important when dissecting culture and one critic's review of a movie.

We all have different perspectives that need to be explored.



I'm actually Chinese

I agree with the first comment; "worst review I have ever read".
And yes, Dusty, the reviewer did miss the point. In fact, I think that has a lot to do with the fact that HE'S NOT CHINESE. Not even Asian for that matter.
A movie like "Ping Pong Playa", based upon Chinese stereotypes and flamboyantly exaggerating them is of course best understood by a Chinese audience. Who better would understand Chinese stereotypes than Chinese people?
I, unlike Brandon Judell, am Chinese, and I am also within the age bracket of the protagonist in the movie. I'm not a college professor, but a university student. I admit I won't be able to teach courses in analyzing films, but to me, "Ping Pong Playa" was a good film. Mainly because I'm part of the target audience. Someone who is not Chinese and is way past their post-teenage years would not understand what makes this film hilarious.
I totally connected with the characters in the movie. The way Michael Wang spoke to his parents, that's the way I speak to my parents. The way the Wang parents talked to their friends about their kids, I KNOW that's how my parents want to their friends about me. And the way C-Dub is struggling with what he wants to do with his life, I completely understand that, too. Not only that, but the way he's dealing with his cultural identity, which to Judell is what seems to make this movie racist, is something a lot of immigrant teenagers and post-immigrant generation children deal with.
Why is it so bad that the main character is portrayed as being a chigger? Even if he spoke in ebonics? It is a reality that there are Chinese teenagers out there who are voluntarily assimilated into American society, whether they conform to white, black, or even hispanic (and many other kinds of) culture. To us, the age bracket who knows of this stereotype, we feel the movie is giving props to the chiggers out there. We don't find it offensive at all, in fact, to us, it's hilarious, because it's all true!
The bit about the homosexuality, I find, is very overanalytical. Thinking that the "queer" pair trying to hook the little boys in the ping pong class into something of a pedophiliac nature seems absolutely absurd. So they're wearing some tight clothes and it's always just two guys together, that makes them homosexuals? Then what about the WWE or UFC? Those guys are either shirtless or in spandex shorts, does that make them homosexuals? Just because sportswear for ping pong are usually tight short-shorts it automatically makes whoever wearing them gay? I think that thinking that way is more homophobic than whatever the movie is depicting. I saw this movie with another Chinese guy who isn't very receptive towards homosexuality but he just found the pair of white men funny; they're comic relief doubled as antagonists, reading more into it would be speculation and going further than what the writers and director intended.
Furthermore, about the love interest played by Smith Cho, saying she was "smitten" is too much. She was not "smitten", she was touched by Christopher's kindness and sincerety towards Felix, and found they had the same views concerning the way their culture was disintegrating in their society. There was no clear conclusion about their relationship, it was never confirmed that they would start dating, it only showed that they had a connection. I don't see how this depicts her with "less dignity". I'm a woman, I didn't find it awful that she's finally hinting she'd give Christopher a chance. She was offering up a chance for him to be with her, not offering up her heart and body. It's the man that's getting a chance, not the woman who is being netted.
When Judell wrote, "Unquestionably, if P.P.P.'s director had been a white man, he would now be receiving more opprobrium than Griffith for Birth of a Nation, the film that single-handedly revived the K.K.K.", he was right. This movie was directed, and written, by people of oriental descent, about people of oriental descent, for people of oriental descent. Reading this review actually made me angry. How can someone who has so little experience about the culture involved in this movie that they don't even understand the stereotypes being depicted even begin to critique it? That's like trying to get a Chinese man to beat a black man in basketball!

What Did You Think of Movie?

Just to call a critic an idiot doesn't say much about your opinion other than you can call someone a name.

You need to back it up with something.

Why do you disagree with his review? What made the movie work for you? Did the reviewer miss the point?

Looking forward to your rebuttal.

wow you are an idiot...

wow you are an idiot... worst review i have ever read

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