Chang Can Dunk Review – a slam dunk coming-of-age teen drama

By Emma Vine
Published: March 12, 2023 (Last updated: last month)


In his directorial debut, Jingyi Shao produces a slam dunk of a film with a likable lead you want to see succeed in this coming-of-age teen drama.

Directed by Jingyi Shao, we review the Disney+ Original film Chang Can Dunk, which does not contain spoilers.

Though a film centering around basketball, Chang Can Dunk is less invested in showcasing the entertainment value of the sport and more ingrained in representing essential life lessons that occur during the story.

The Disney+ Original coming-of-age teen drama has a lot of depth and sets an example to viewers, making us consider our choices and how they can impact those around us.

Chang Can Dunk Review and Plot Summary

The film follows Chang, a 16-year-old major basketball fan who idolizes the late Kobe Bryant and uses the NBA champion’s success to muster his self-confidence. Equipped with a stylish haircut, new fashion ideas, and determined to ditch his former geekier self-image, Chang is ready to start the new school year. He shares with his best friend, Bo (Ben Wang), his desire to become popular at school and land a girlfriend.

After returning to the marching band, Chang meets Kristy (Zoe Renee), the new snare player to whom he takes a liking to. To impress his crush and prove himself, 5’8 Chang bets on one of the most talented high school basketball players he can dunk by homecoming, a decision that will forever change his life.

One thing that can be said for Chang Can Dunk is how relatable the leading role is. The film reflects teenagers’ struggles during high school as they seek validation and popularity from others, which is something we all likely have experienced during our school years. It also depicts our challenges when struggling to find interests that entice us.

Whether it be a hobby or a career choice, what we are interested in and wish to pursue might not come easy or be something we excel at. Still, through patience, dedication, and passion, Chang learns that although he is not naturally gifted at playing basketball, cutting corners to impress the masses impacts the relationships surrounding him and only brings him temporary fulfillment.

What I loved most about the film was the Asian representation, with a solid directorial debut from Jingyi Shao. His talent made the viewer feel like they were living each moment from Chang’s perspective, and Bloom Li nailed his first significant acting role. Even when the character made a few poor choices, I was still rooting for him and remained hopeful that he would do the right thing and achieve some form of redemption.

Another important aspect of the film is the relationship Chang shares with his mother, who has raised him as a single parent, and hopes that her son will choose an interest and commit to it. Li and Ma both do a fantastic job of representing a mother and son who love each other as relatives but have very different outlooks on life and fail to connect due to not having much in common. Though once Chang’s mother starts to see her son’s passion for basketball shine through, the two share some sentimental moments that are a joy to watch.

There are, however, moments in the movie that feel unrealistic, predictable, and all too conveniently laid out to move the plot forward. Of course, like most teenage coming-of-age films centering around high school, there are typical clichés present, but overall, Chang Can Dunk’s heart is in the right place.

Is the 2023 movie Chang Can Dunk good?

Chang Can Dunk is a must-see if you enjoy coming-of-age dramas. The film makes for a pleasant viewing experience and focuses on honesty, patience, remaining true to oneself, and valuing genuine relationships. The life lessons portrayed in the movie inspire viewers and encourage individual growth, so overall, I’d say it’s a slam dunk.

What did you think of the 2023 Disney+ film Chang Can Dunk? Comment below.

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