A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Every obstacle is an opportunity. Sometimes family doesn't love us the way we want, but we know they're trying their best. Trying hard is half the battle. Believe in yourself. You are enough. Be supportive of and loyal to your friends.
Positive Role Models
Chang demonstrates perseverance in training to learn to dunk a basketball and overcoming situations where he's publicly shamed, online and in real life. Some high schoolers show teamwork in helping Chang reach his goal, while others tease and bully each other. Chang and his mom have a strained relationship that results in some difficult moments and mutual accusations, and Chang's father is absent. Chang makes some major missteps he has to atone for.
The main character is an Asian American high schooler whose Chinese mom speaks Mandarin to him at home (and he mostly replies in English). In one scene, Chang accuses his popular White classmate of looking down on him and underestimating his basketball skills because, among other reasons, he's Asian. His best friend is also Asian American, and both his love interest and his part-time coach are Black. The secondary cast is diverse, including a Black female principal and a student band leader wearing a hijab. The film was written and directed by a Chinese American man.
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Violence & Scariness
Some high school bullying includes teasing and name-calling, locking a classmate in a basement, laughing and videotaping people when they do embarrassing things (and sharing the videos online), and a fistfight. A high school bet leads to a boy having his head willingly shaved in front of a crowd of students. A girl's father died of cancer. A young kid plays a violent video game. A boy pushes himself physically to get stronger, vomits from training too hard, and falls and hits his head on a court.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
High schoolers have crushes. A kiss in one scene.
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"Hell," "ass," "holy crap," "sucks," "shut up," "God," and name-calling like "poser," "nerd," "creep," "weirdo," "fool," and "stupid." One swear word is bleeped out.
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Products & Purchases
Lots of NBA teams, players, sponsors, and apparel are discussed or seen. Nike, Spotify, Duke, Pokemon, eBay, Tama, Verizon, YouTube, Instagram, ESPN (a Disney company).
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A high schooler attends a professional party in New York City where adults are drinking alcohol. Teens drink out of tumblers at a high school party, but there's no indication they're drinking alcohol.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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?
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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