Trailer Face-Off: Boyhood vs. Ping-Pong Summer

Published May 1, 2014

Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Boyhood vs. Ping Pong Summer, two coming-of-age films that see their protagonists move from childhood into adolescence.

PremiseBoyhood tells the story of Mason’s life from the age of five to 18. If you haven’t already heard, what makes Boyhood unlike any other coming-of-age story is that the actor that plays Mason (Ellar Coltrane) actually comes of age during the film, which was made over a span of 12 years. The narrative follows Mason into adolescence, where he inevitably has to decide what he’s going to make of his life. The more light-hearted Ping Pong Summer is about Rad Miracle’s family trip to Ocean City, Maryland during the summer of 1985. The teen, who is obsessed with ping pong, takes a few pointers from his former-champion next door neighbor (Susan Sarandon) in order to win a match at The Fun Hub. While Ping Pong Summer has our nostalgia vote, we’re intrigued by the real-life aspect of Boyhood.Advantage: Boyhood

Growing UpThe old adage “Boys will be boys” doesn’t necessarily ring true in either of these films—changes occur that send both the protagonists hurdling into adulthood. In Boyhood, we see the progression over time: a young Mason giggles at a lingerie catalogue, while an older Mason falls in love. His voice drops, too. In Ping Pong Summer, the coming-of-age process is just as progressive. Rad learns to stick up for himself, but not without addressing all the awkward teen tropes we know and love first (his hopeless attempt at break dancing is sure to make you smile). There’s an honesty and empathy to the way both films treat growing up, but how could we resist Linklater’s 12-year study?Advantage: Boyhood

DirectorRichard Linklater both wrote and directed Boyhood. Known for his films Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, and Dazed and Confused, Linklater takes a radically different approach in Boyhood, as most of his films are known to take place over the course of a single day. We know Linklater has a talent for working with kids and teens, which is why we trust him to paint an accurate picture of adolescence. Besides, Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei Linklater, has a significant part in the film. Ping Pong Summer marks a victory for writer, director, and actor Michael Tully; while his previous films Cocaine Angel and Septien were not particularly well received, Ping Pong Summer strikes us as a hit. Nevertheless, Linklater wins by a mile.  Advantage: Boyhood

TimeBoth stories share a special relationship to time. In Boyhood, 12 actual years pass between the beginning and the end of the film. While the story and the characters are fictional, their aging and development is not—it’s playing with time and film in a way we’ve never seen before. Ping Pong Summer tackles a much smaller window of time: a family vacation. While perhaps not as innovative as Boyhood’s approach, what we love about this film is the time that it captures: the ’80s. The boomboxes, the fresh kicks, the tracksuits, the big hair—it’s a visual feast that we can’t get enough of.Advantage: Ping Pong Summer

CastBoyhood stars Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Lorelei Linklater. Can you imagine being tied to a project for 12 years? Just think of how much has changed since 2002. This cast is dedicated, to say the least (although according to Linklater, his daughter Lorelei did ask if she could be killed off early on in the project). While we can expect great performances from Arquette and Hawke (a favorite of Linklater’s), we’re looking forward to Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater’s debuts on the big screen. In Ping Pong Summer, Marcello Conte (Rad) is also a newcomer to film. While fresh talent is abundant in both films, we have to acknowledge the older crowd in Ping Pong Summer; Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, and John Hannah steal the spotlight in this ’80s tribute. Specifically, were excited to see Sarandon move her focus back to film after a few TV appearances on shows like The Big C, 30 Rock, Doll & Em, and Mike & Molly. While Ping Pong Summer boasts a cast of veteran actors, the stars of Boyhood triumph based on their sheer commitment to the film.Advantage: Boyhood

The VerdictAlthough we’re drawn to the quirkiness of Ping Pong Summer, there’s no denying Linklater’s ingenious filmmaking approach in Boyhood. While both films capture the transition of a young boy into adolescence, there’s something highly intriguing about Boyhood‘s concrete relationship to time; we can’t wait to see how it transpires on film.   Winner: Boyhood