Film: Ping Pong Playa
Director: Jessica Yu
Where to watch: Tubi
Why it made the list:
Jessica Yu is an Oscar-winning director best known for directing television shows such as “Fosse/Verdon” and “13 Reasons Why.” She is also one of our many female Asian American directors and one of my personal heroes and former bosses.
Back in February 2019, I was hired to be the director’s assistant to Jessica Yu for the pilot episode of “Bluff City Law.” This was my first real job in the industry, having only done day-playing jobs and driving in the past. I really had no clue what to do and how to be helpful, but Jessica was an amazing leader and mentor, and I really learned so much from her. She took a personal interest in getting to know me, which I was so appreciative of. She is a classy, smart, and strong boss lady. So it goes without saying that I was a bit surprised to find that she wrote and directed something like “Ping Pong Playa.”
PPP stars Jimmy Tsai as C-Dub Wang, a wannabe basketball player with no real job or responsibilities and lives with his parents. His entire family, including his doctor brother, are all really into ping pong. His dad runs an equipment store, his mom teaches children’s ping pong at the community center, and his brother is a local champion player. When C-Dub’s mom and brother get injured, C-Dub has to fill in to teach the kids and defend his family’s title from the “foreigners” who are threatening to take all the community center’s students for their own ping pong school.
The film has a lot of humor, culture references, and a not-half-bad soundtrack. It also has some super cute kids attempting to play ping pong. But the film also has a message of responsibility, working for what you want, and how sometimes what you think you’re meant to do isn’t meant to be. C-Dub is always talking about basketball, even in his interview that the film continuously cuts to, but in the end says he’s a ping pong player. He ends up winning the championship, which in turn gets the community to shop at the store and take lessons. C-Dub continues to teach the ping pong classes, which are completely full. He also takes on more family responsibilities.
Does it deserve to stay on this list?
It’s interesting to watch this film knowing how Jessica works and her thought processes. I should have known better than to think that this film would be one of those comedies that’s all humor and nothing else. It was also refreshing to see a comedy from the perspective of Asian Americans and wasn’t a “Rush Hour” movie (which I always think of when it comes to Asians and humor). I liked this film; I don’t think it was something that will stay with me as years go by (like “Rush Hour”), but it was entertaining, funny, and well-made. I was hesitant to include this film on the list, but I’m glad that I did and gave it a chance.