There have been movies based on books, TV shows, plays, skits, comics, and video games, but to my knowledge, inspiration for a film has never come from a commercial. Credit documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu, then, for taking a character from a little-known online advertisement and putting him up on the big screen in one of the year’s most underrated films. “Ping Pong Playa” tells the story of Chris “C-Dub” Wang (Jimmy Tsai), an Asian-American slacker with dreams of becoming a pro basketball star. When his mother and brother are injured in a car accident, however, C-Dub is forced to help out with the family ping pong business by teaching his mom’s beginner class and filling in for his champion brother at the upcoming tournament. Following the same formula as most underdog sports comedies (including the mandatory training montage and cartoon villain), “Ping Pong Playa” makes up what it lacks in originality with a never-ending supply of comic energy. To quote my good friend Neil Miller of Film School Rejects, actor/co-writer Jimmy Tsai is “crazy charismatic.” Granted, he’s had some time to perfect the character (which originated in a series of Venom Sportswear ads), and it’s not exactly a star-turning performance, but without Tsai, “Ping Pong Playa” wouldn’t be nearly as funny or memorable.

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