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Chang Can Dunk Review – A 90’s Era Disney Film That’s Surprisingly Effective

Chang Cover

Every generation thinks the decade they grew up in was the greatest time to be a child. The rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia tend to work that way, and I am no different. Having spent the most impressionable years of my youth in the 90’s, I stand firmly behind that decade as the pinnacle moment for kid’s entertainment. Growing up in the 90’s meant watching the TGIF lineup, Saturday morning cartoons and Disney Channel original movies. Chang Can Dunk — a new Disney+ original film releasing on the streaming service March 10 — channels those monthly movie events of the 90’s in a surprisingly effective way.

The Plot

Chang (Bloom Li) is a typical high school student dealing with the standard hurdles and tribulations of adolescence. He’s awkward around girls, suffers from low self-esteem and desperately wants to be noticed. He has skills on the basketball court, but can’t seem to escape the shadow of the team’s star player, Matt (Chase Liefeld). In a desperate attempt to impress his peers, Chang bets Matt that he can learn to slam dunk a basketball before the season’s end. Chang bets his most prized Pokémon card (also extremely 90’s) — valued at three-thousand dollars — against Matt in the wager; however, Chang soon realizes that he stands to lose more than just his first edition, shadowless Charizard.

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Bloom Li (Left) and Chase Liefeld (Right) in Chang Can Dunk

The Critique

Chang Can Dunk focuses its entire plot around a seemingly minor event. Whether or not a high school student can learn to slam-dunk a basketball by the end of a season isn’t exactly a high-stakes premise; however, its that simplicity that makes the film so refreshing and enjoyable to watch. It’s a story about ordinary characters encountering realistic dilemmas, and recognizing that any issues can be significant and life-changing to a teenaged, high-schooler.

It’s Disney, and in traditional Disney style, there are meaningful and impactful messages at the heart of Chang Can Dunk. The manner in which those messages are delivered aren’t always graceful, and for the most part, are a retread of the same ground that Disney has been covering for years. We see the rocky road that paves the pursuit of popularity, the impact of damaged self-esteem and learn the significant of acceptance. Although it’s often clunky in its portrayal, there is never a wrong time to teach young people about the importance of self-worth.

Chang Can Dunk manages to share its messages without ever feeling like it’s preaching to its audience. The moral of the story is never forced, but instead unravels naturally through the film’s writing. For example, inclusion is important; however, the film never forces the topic of race into the discussion, but instead makes its argument by allowing the story to center on a diverse cast of characters from varying backgrounds.


In Conclusion

Chang Can Dunk is perhaps the perfect Disney+ original film. That doesn’t mean it’s a perfect film, far from it. But it’s a perfect example of the content that should be premiering on the streaming service. It’s a fun, comical and relatable story with a refreshing simplicity that’s been lacking from motion pictures in recent years. And, importantly, it’s a film that families can enjoy together.


7 Out of 10

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Written by Joshua Ryan

Joshua Ryan is the Creative Coordinator and Head Film Critic for FandomWire. He's a member of the Critics Choice Association and spokesperson for the Critics Association of Central Florida. Joshua is also one of the hosts of the FandomWire review based Podcast, Cinema Stubs.

Twitter: @MrMovieGuy86 Instagram: @MrMovieGuy86