Christopher ”C-dub” Wang (Jimmy Tsai, who also co-wrote the script), the dork hero of the wan comedy Ping Pong Playa, is a Chinese-American slacker who dreams of basketball glory and get-rich-quick schemes as a way to wriggle out from under the shadow of his older brother, a doctor and Ping-Pong champ. C-dub wants nothing to do with table tennis, even though his dad runs a store devoted to the sport and his mom teaches the game at a local Chinese community center. So, by the standard math of ethnic comedies, C-dub is therefore destined to pick up a paddle against his will, to assemble a pack of misfit kids as his cheering squad, to make some funny mistakes, and ultimately to triumph in competition — and in his integrated self-identity. Somewhere, perhaps, a Nickelodeon cartoon series is waiting to be made.
Until then, interest in Playa lies in the fact that director Jessica Yu is a documentarian with a daring taste in subjects, from outsider artists (In the Realms of the Unreal) to extreme personalities (Protagonist). Yet in her first non-doc feature, she plays it safe; even the championship showdown feels polite. C+