Chang Can Dunk
High school underdog tale has bullying, life lessons.
Chang Can Dunk
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Chang Can Dunk has a diverse cast and centers on an Asian American teen lead character, Chang (Bloom Li). Expect some emotionally dramatic scenes involving Chang and his mom, Chen (Mardy Ma). He's the target of some bullying and teasing, both in person and online, and he engages in name-calling and taunting as well. He also makes some important missteps he has to later atone for. He and a classmate flirt and share a kiss. Language includes a bleeped-out swear word, plus "hell," "ass," "holy crap," "sucks," "shut up," "poser," "nerd," "creep," and more. The movie also has some very positive messages, as it shows the child of a single, immigrant mother demonstrating perseverance and overcoming hurdles while relying on the support and teamwork of his friends.
This movie shows that if you try hard, then you shall succeed.
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What's the Story?
In CHANG CAN DUNK, Chang (Bloom Li) is starting his sophomore year of high school with a plan to be a better, cooler version of himself, aka "Chang 2.0." School starts off well when he meets attractive new bandmate, Kristy (Zoe Renee). But in no time, popular basketball star Matt (Chase Liefeld) starts making the moves on Kristy too. One thing leads to another, and Chang finds himself betting Matt he can slam dunk a basketball by Homecoming. With the help of his best friend, Bo (Ben Wang), with whom he passes the evenings on video chats while his single mom (Mardy Ma) is at work, Chang tracks down a local part-time coach, Deandre (Dexter Darden), to train him. Bo's expertly-crafted videos of their intense training sessions start to go viral. Meanwhile, Chang's mom notices something is changing in her son.
Is It Any Good?
Ranging from giddy teen coming-of-age comedy to poignant family drama, this engaging film offers a fresh perspective, fine acting, and an entertaining and emotional tale. The set-up of Chang Can Dunk has some laugh-out-loud scenes, like one where Chang and his best friend Bo (played by actors-to-watch Bloom Li and Ben Wang) debate the appropriate alter ego spirit animal for the Asian American wannabe basketball star. There's some very clever tongue-in-cheek use of triumphant music to accompany high school shenanigans and graphics to show Bo's Michael Bay-style video editing skills. If you're not rooting for the aspirational Chang from the get-go, there's something wrong with you.
In its third act, though, the film turns from exuberant comedy to poignant drama as Chang missteps in a big way and his strained relationship with his mom comes to a head. It's an unexpected tonal change that could momentarily confuse viewers. But it eventually pays off, and the film -- and its tone -- come full circle to a satisfying closure. The characters all learn valuable lessons about themselves and how they treat and react to each other. This film does a great job conveying the importance of trustworthy and supportive friends for high schoolers, particularly those on the margins of the social landscape. Writer-director Jingyi Shao, a self-described only child of immigrants, offers a fresh characterization of the Asian American male teen experience we will hopefully see more of, maybe even in a sequel. Chang 4.0?
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Chang's perseverance. He likes to say, "Every obstacle is an opportunity." Does he live this motto? Do you?
Do you think Chang's goals are worthy? Why or why not?
Does being Asian American make Chang different at his school? Is his character unique among other Disney movies you've watched? Why or why not?
Bo is tasked with making YouTube videos for Deandre that follow Michael Bay's style. How does the film show this? Who is Michael Bay, and where could you go for more information?
What does the teamwork of Chang, Bo, Deandre, and Kristy look like? How does the support of the group, and also of Chang's mom, benefit them individually?
- On DVD or streaming: March 10, 2023
- Cast: Bloom Li, Ben Wang, Zoe Renee
- Director: Jingyi Shao
- Studio: Disney+
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, High School
- Character Strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and some thematic elements
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 10, 2023
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