Rumble in Mongolia

Ping Pong *** (out of five)

MV5BMjAwMjUwMzQyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODA0MTgwOA@@._V1_SX214_Hugh Hartford’s documentary Ping Pong is a charming look at sporting world you probably don’t know exists – that of senior table tennis, played at the international level.

Unfortunately the execution is extremely formulaic for this sort of movie, simply setting up the characters, following them to the event (in Mongolia, which is certainly interesting) and ultimately making its way through the tournament, where we get to see which of the players we’re following may triumph, if any.

This sort of documentary – like Spellbound, Mad Hot Ballroom, Wordplay, Murderball and Word Wars – really relies on the strength of its characters, and unfortunately none of the participants profiled here are particularly intriguing. In this case, the event, and the world of the event, is the most fascinating aspect; perhaps the filmmaker’s focus could have recognized that.  On the more positive side, the actual matches themselves, as they approach the Finals and still contain some of our characters, become really quite exciting. Australians are represented by Dorothy, who, at a hundred years old, lays claim to being the oldest table tennis champion ever, and no-one’s doubting that.

An observation: nearly all of the Western players wear glasses. None of the Asian players do – yet they’re playing wicked ping pong, so they can definitely see… Is there any possible explanation for this?

Leave a Reply