Disney’s latest original film is “Chang Can Dunk”, which tells the story of 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.
Disney loves a good underdog sports story, plus it loves to give us as many stereotypical High School teenage hijinks as possible, with a modern twist involving the downsides of social media and the impact it can have on people. Plus, the film also includes other teenage issues, including a strained relationship between a mother and son, growing up and gaining confidence.
As you might expect, we see how Chang goes through all the training to prove something not just to the high school bully, but to impress his friends, get the girl, and ultimately himself. While the film does tease the stereotypical fairytale ending, which you can probably guess at before you’ve even seen the film. I actually had to check the time on how long the film had left, as at the halfway point, the film had ticked off everything in the stereotypical high school film checklist. It’s in the second half of the movie, that things get a lot more interesting as it does try to do a little twist, which I’m glad it did, especially as it takes it out of the high school setting and into the wider world of what can happen when someone becomes a breakout meme and how getting everything you wanted doesn’t always work in your favour.
The mid-film switch made the film so much more interesting, as it felt a little more realistic. Ultimately, as you’d expect, things work out as you would assume they do, but it does it in a slightly different way than expected. Honestly, when I saw the trailer for the film, I had very little interest in watching it. Had it been on another streaming service, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. But as with “Rise” and “Safety”, Disney has a way of pulling me in on these sport films, especially as someone who doesn’t watch sports.
Another thing I did enjoy about the film, was the soundtrack. Since Chang’s love interest has a love of rock, the film features some great music. “Chang Can Dunk” isn’t a film I’d watch to rewatch, but it was a lot better than I was expecting, since my expectations were pretty low. It does have way too many stereotypical high school moments, but in some way, it leans in on that and then pulls an interesting twist. I think Bloom Li is extremely likeable in this film, which pulls you into the story, especially as there are many emotional moments in the film, that showcase his talent.
Overall, “Chang Can Dunk” is an enjoyable teenage high school film, about growing up and dealing with what you’ve been handed in life. If you want to change something, you’ve got to make a change. It won’t just drop into your lap. It’s a feel-good sports film, that treats teenagers with some respect. Not everything is glossy; it’s not magical; it’s about hard work, which can pay off, which isn’t a bad thing for kids to learn. It’s got a solid story, but the first half of the film was just too cliche, that I got a little bored, but the mid-film twist make it much more enjoyable.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
“Chang Can Dunk” arrives on Disney+ on Friday, 10th March 2023.
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.