Chang Can Dunk Review

Zoey Renee as Kristy, Bloom Li as Chang, Dexter Darden as DeAndre, and Ben Wang as Bo in CHANG CAN DUNK, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Stephanie Mei-Ling. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

We all remember our high school days and how awkward we were during that time. Some of us try to reinvent ourselves every year and end up becoming something we are not and losing touch with our real selves and sometimes our closest friends. Chang Can Dunk is a sports movie that is not a sports movie. While the movie is about a young Asian teen trying to dunk a basketball, the story is more about a young man learning about what is really important in life.

Chang is entering his sophomore year in high school and decides to start the year as Chang 2.0. He changed his hair and puts a little swagger in his step and wants to be more popular than his former friend, Matt. During a basketball drill in gym class, Matt embarrasses Chang and then shows off by dunking in front of Chang. We see that although Chang has great basketball skills he is a member of the school band. He does mention that he promised the band coach he would be on the band but it seems like his dream is to be on the basketball team.

With the pressures of high school being more than enough, it feels that Chang mainly joined the school band because he was probably not taken seriously when he tried out for the basketball team. The movie does a great job of not using Chang’s race as the catalyst for why he was not on the basketball team. The movie treats all of the kids in the movie just like that, kids, and does not put them in groups due to their ethnicity. Not since Fresh Off the Boat, have we seen a male Asian lead that we can all relate to.

When Chang meets the new student and member of the school band, Kristy, he takes a liking to her. He talks to her about the music she likes and he starts opening up to her about his life and vice versa. When Chang sees that Matt is also talking to Kristy he decides he is going to do something about it and bets Matt he can dunk before the end of the school year. Can Chang really accomplish this goal or will he miss completely?

Chang’s love for basketball is universal and he uses the words of the late Kobe Bryant, “See every obstacle as an opportunity” as his mantra. Although he tries to live by these words he does have some obstacles that hinder him from being the person he thinks he should be. Chang has a distant relationship with his mother. Chang’s mother is portrayed as a disheveled-tired nurse who is constantly working to make ends meet for her family. It feels like she has no time for Chang and in the few moments they have together they rarely talk to each other. The conversations are short and not really deep. We learn later on in the movie about why they are like this and what happened to Chang’s father.

DeAndre is an internet basketball player that posts videos of him dunking on players and catches the eye of Chang. Chang reaches out to DeAndre to teach him how to dunk. Their initial meeting is pretty funny because they already have preconceived notions about who they are. “You’re a basketball coach?” “I thought you were 6 feet!” DeAndre not only teaches Chang the mechanics of dunking but also teaches him about life and how to accept the cards that you are dealt. DeAndre becomes the father figure that is missing in Chang’s life. This partnership also gives us the training montages that we normally see with all sports movies. So if you are a fan of training montages, here you go!

Eventually, Chang accomplishes what he set out to do but at a price. With his newfound popularity, Chang starts losing sight of why he wanted to dunk and who he is. Here is where the theme and the lesson of the movie come into play. Chang starts becoming full of himself and thinks he is invincible. This is the part of the movie where I started disliking Chang and I hope it shows kids that you don’t want to be that person who thinks they are cooler/better than everyone.

Due to this he starts losing his friends and when the truth is revealed the resolution feels like a Mentos moment. Remember those commercials? If not, here’s a quick synopsis: a person in the commercial does something out of the ordinary or something they should not do. When caught, they pull out a pack of Mentos, eat one, and all is forgiven with a laugh or two. Although the movie has a great premise and lesson, it feels like it was wrapped up too quickly.

I will point out that the resolution with his mother is heartful and one of the moments that saves the quick ending in the movie. Hopefully, this relationship will show kids that having tough conversations with parents is necessary to have a healthy relationship with them. I would like to see more of what comes out of their bond and how Chang uses what he has learned during the rest of his time in high school.

Final Thoughts: Chang Can Dunk is a sports movie that is not really a sports movie. The themes of identity, family, and accepting oneself are larger than the story of a young man trying to dunk a basketball. Chang is relatable in the way that we all want to belong and sometimes try to be someone different. Like Chang, we all have goals but how far would we go to achieve them? While the movie can teach kids a good lesson, it feels like the main character just gets a slap on the wrist when he is forgiven.

Kid-Friendly: This movie is good for kids in the honest portrayal of the struggle that kids go through in school when trying to fit in. The movie not only shows us Chang’s school life but also his relationship with his mother. Children will learn a few things from watching this movie: Working hard to achieve your goals and being true to yourself. Kids will also see how being popular can change a person if they are not careful.

Violence: There is a fight scene between Chang and Matt but it is not fully shown.

Chang Can Dunk” follows Chang, a 16-year-old, Asian American high school student in the marching band, who bets the school basketball star that he can dunk by Homecoming. The bet leads the 5’ 8″ Chang on a quest to find the hops he needs to dunk in order to impress his crush, Kristy, and finally gain the attention and respect of his high school peers. But before he can rise up and truly throw one down, he’ll have to reexamine everything he knows about himself, his friendships and his family.

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