Documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu takes a breather from chronicling heavy-duty outsider artists (In the Realms of the Unreal) and extremists (Protagonist) to try her hand at a popcorn send-up of identity politics you can take the kids to—and it’s not half-bad. Burdened with a perfect older brother and marooned in disdain for his ping-pong-obsessed suburban Chinese-American family, Chris “C-Dub” Wang (a character worked up from a sportswear commercial by Ping Pong Playa‘s production accountant/co-writer Jimmy Tsai, who also plays him with dumb-ass brio) succumbs to a severe case of homeboy envy, talking ghetto and shooting baskets with little kids while stewing in a dead-end job and blaming his failure to make the NBA on his short stature. Chris is a good, if rather too long-running, joke, and it’s fun that Yu and Tsai, who know their Asian-American bourgeoisie through and through, skewer the hypersensitivity of minorities with the same acuity that they take down white condescension. Frantically paced, littered with cute kids, and overstuffed with split screens and a rap score, Ping Pong Playa angles a little too hard for tween attention, but there’s no resisting the movie’s antic affability or its irreverence, even with Chris’s unavoidable progression toward the mature appreciation of his roots.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 4, 2008