These Should Exist: The Movie Novelization edition


By Shawn Robare

One of the things I tend to skirt around covering here at Branded is the crop of modern films and cartoons that very heavily influenced by the 80s, either in setting or just straight up homage.  There are a bunch of cool flicks and TV shows that fall into this category, stuff like Netflix’s recent Stranger Things, JJ Abrams’ Super 8, or the handful of 80s era cartoon re-launches (including Danger Mouse and Voltron.)  I’ve been enjoying a lot of this stuff, but I usually take a pass on covering it here since there are a ton of other websites doing a much better job of taking a look at that stuff.  That being said, there is a modern movie that I wanted to touch on, one that I’ve found myself watching and re-watching on an almost monthly basis, Michael Tully’s 2014 throwback comedy Ping Pong Summer

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The flick centers on the Miracle family as they embark on their yearly summer vacation in Ocean City, Maryland.  Specifically the film follows the young Rad Miracle, a kid who enjoys rocking out to the funky beat of the Fat Boys, Mantronix, and RUN DMC, breaking in his cherished pair of red parachute pants, and playing ping pong.  While at the beach Rad runs into his new best friend Teddy Fryy (spelt with two Ys), an awkward kid who loves to rap, falls for the town hottie Stacey Summers, and gets into a beef with a local bullies Lyle and Dale, all culminating in an epic battle that can only be decided with a devastating match of ping pong.

I came to this movie through my fiancée a couple of years ago when we were still living in separate parts of the country.  Jaime grew up in the Baltimore area and spent years going to the boardwalk in Ocean City, so when she found out that there was a movie set in that era she had to see it opening weekend.  This movie just clicked for both of us.  For Jaime, Tully managed to capture a story on film that felt amazingly authentic to her experience growing up, and aside from experiencing that through her vicariously, I fell hard for the visual style, an amazing soundtrack, the humor and some pretty obscure references to some of my favorite cult films including Troll 2, Rad, and No Retreat, No Surrender.  I also loved the casting of the flick, not only for the group of unknown kids that killed it in the flick, but also for really fun turns from some 80s mainstays like Lea Thompson and Susan Sarandon. I could go on and on about how much I love this flick, and if you really want to get deeper into my thoughts on the flick you can check out episode 26 of the Cult Film Club podcast where Jaime, my bud Paxton Holley of the Cavalcade of Awesome and I spend and hour and change gushing about how much we dig this flick.

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I’ve had the opportunity to chat with the writer/director of the film, Michael Tully, who is a very awesome dude with great taste in film and a great sense of humor.  It’s kind of a bummer that ultimately, Ping Pong Summer didn’t crush at the box office because the film is great, and it’s quickly becoming one of those cult films that gets better and better with each viewing.  Recently I was joking on twitter with a few friends and Tully about movie novelizations and how I feel like it’s a bummer that we live in an age when films aren’t routinely adapted into books anymore.  I mentioned that I’d love to read a novelization of Ping Pong Summer and Tully took that and ran with it even giving me what he would have wanted as the first line of the book.

Well, I always love an opportunity to practice my skills in Photoshop, so I sat down last night and designed a vintage-style Point/Scholastic book cover for the novelization of the flick, and I even wrote the first two pages of the book to boot.  These are the pinnacle of what I think this These Should Exist column was created for…

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I hope Michael Tully digs this little exercise as I had a lot of fun working on it.  Hell, part of me wants to sit down and finish writing the book!  Maybe someday.  Until then, this is as good a way as I know to start closing out the summer.  If you haven’t seen the flick I whole heartedly suggest seeking it out.  It’s in the vein of Napoleon Dynamite, with a dash of the Karate Kid, and a whole lot of beach-y awesome fun.

  • Retromash

    Love it, Shawn. I always enjoy a good Photoshop mockup but I love that you also actually started writing the first couple of pages! I haven’t seen the film yet. I need to rectify that I think.

    • Yeah, when the director and I were going back and forth on Twitter and he spit out that first line I immediately when home and wrote those two pages. Definitely check out the flick. It’s a little weird and a lot awkward, but in a very fun way.

  • LordToastButter

    Glad you have caught this film, I’ve been championing it within my circle since I first saw the trailer. Pretty great little flick, and I agree, it is a shame that it did not get them much buzz.

    • Yeah, I feel really lucky that my fiancée lives (basically) where it was set and filmed, so without her having caught it, it probably would have slipped past my radar. Speaking of the filming locations, we even visited them! http://cultfilmclub.com/cfc-roadtrip-ping-pong-summer-edition/

      • LordToastButter

        That’s awesome. I had a friend and fellow film geek from out of town spend the 4th of July with us an we spent one day driving around Baltimore showing him some of the movie locations from Cry Baby, Dinner, Runaway Bride, 12 Monkeys, etc etc. And every time my wife and I fly to LA to visit family we select 1-2 movies/tv shows to hunt down locations, Last time we were there it was all Back to the Future and Wonder Years.

        • Very cool. I’d love to hit up LA if only to scope out Monster Squad locations…

  • DUSTINDUSTRIES

    Hey Shawn , good to see Branded on the regular again. I have watched PPS a few times and I get that feel of the 80s that they were going for. My friend sent me some photos recently from a holiday spot in the UK that had not been updated for some time and I immediately thought of your trip to the film location.

    As for homage TV shows, I know it is set in the 90s but Fresh Off The Boat is brilliant and my favorite sitcom, I was watching Season 2 Ep.15 today and they were discussing who would win in a fight between a possessed Cabbage patch Kid and Teddy Ruxpin with a Metallica Tape inserted. There is also a Halloween episode where the Dad dresses as Mr.T.

    • Thanks! And yeah, all those vacation areas where there is little to no change in the town after 30 years is so great. Instant nostalgia. I’m not sure if you’ve mentioned that show before, but based on that description I need to watch it, like now.

      • DUSTINDUSTRIES

        Google = Based on chef Eddie Huang’s best-selling memoir of the same name, “Fresh Off the Boat” takes a humorous look at the lives of immigrants in America. In the 1990s, Eddie, a hip-hop-loving 11-year-old, relocates with his parents and two brothers to suburban Orlando from the Chinatown section of Washington, D.C.

        So it was in book form first and they relocate to Orlando, I think you gots to watch this now. I have not read the book as yet but would def like to get a copy..

  • jackfrost

    I didn’t even know this movie existed. I have lived in Maryland my entire life, so Ocean City was the go to destination when I was young. I have to give this a watch. I wish it were actually filmed in the 80s, there used to be an extremely cool looking haunted house called Morbid Manor on the pier.

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