The new Disney+ film Chang Can Dunk is a “slam dunk” and a film you must watch as soon as possible. The film follows 16-year-old Asian-American high schooler Chang (played by Bloom Li) who is considered to be an ‘outcast.’ Chang loves the game of basketball but has never been able to show people how much he loves it. He challenges basketball star Matt (played by Chase Liefeld) to a bet that he will be able to dunk by Homecoming.
With the help of his trainer and mentor, DeAndre (played by Dexter Darden), and best friend Bo (played by Ben Wang), he
begins training to dunk the ball in hopes that it will impress his crush Kristy (played by Zoe Renee) and that it will earn the respect of his fellow classmates. Along with Chang’s journey to dunk the basketball he learns more about himself, his friends and his family.
Chang Can Dunk is a pleasant surprise. More often than not, sports movies can feel cliché, lack any emotional impact and become rather forgettable. This is not the case at all for Chang Can Dunk. Even though it falls into some of the cliches of sports and coming-of-age films, and the comedy can sometimes be very cringy, it’s much more unique and original, thus, making it better and more memorable. The film has a tremendous amount of heart that it wears on its sleeve, it’s blending of genres, its beautiful message about self-worth and self-confidence, offering an outstanding balance of heartwarming, silly and sad moments and its incredible Asian representation.
Besides Dexter Darden, the rest of the cast is pretty unknown to this point. However, the lack of experience does not equal horrible performances; everyone is fantastic in this movie. Bloom Li and Zoe Renee have near-perfect chemistry and work so well off one another. They are the “perfect team.” Every interaction they shared on screen was super cute and wholesome. Their chemistry together reminded me of the rom-com movie couples of the 90s like Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) and Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore) in The Wedding Singer or Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) and Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) in 10 Things I Hate About You. I really hope that both Li and Renee get more “big” roles in the future, particularly in romance or comedy movies, as I think they have loads of talent. Scene-stealing Ben Wang is terrifically hilarious.
Being a massive fan of basketball and music, I was ecstatic when I realized these two things would be combined for the film. As the title suggests, the film’s main focus is on basketball, particularly dunking and the training it takes to become a better basketball player. The training montages of Chang trying to dunk are not as iconic or exciting as any montage featured in
the Rocky franchise, but they are still impressive. The training montages are able to be charming, inspiring, sweet and funny. All of them showcase the “highs and lows” of Chang trying to dunk, the growing friendship he has with DeAndre and Chang believing in himself more and more. Several former NBA players also made brief but memorable cameos. Richard
Jefferson and Andre Drummond were the best cameos out of them all. Both were very funny in their short screen time.
Music plays a significant role in the movie too. For example, Chang, Ben and Kristy are part of the school marching band, Kristy has an epic drum solo. Chang and Kristy have many interesting exchanges about rock music, in particular Metallica, and they even have a brief duet of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Since Radiohead is one of my favourite bands of all time, I was surprised but delighted they were referenced in the movie. I would have never guessed that both Kobe Bryant and Radiohead would be mentioned in the same movie.
Overall, Chang Can Dunk is an absolute blast and a perfect movie for any sports fan.