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‘Chang Can Dunk’ – Exploring Layers of The Asian Diaspora

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Just a month ago, Disney+ released an original film, Chang Can Dunk, which stars Bloom Li as Chang, an Asian-American high schooler who dreams of recreating a whole new image for himself during his sophomore year. The only problem is, he gets caught up in a bet resulting in him needing to land a slam dunk on the basketball court, all of which only add to an ever-growing pile of problems that Chang must eventually confront. The film also stars Zoe Renee, Ben Wang, Dexter Darden, Chase Liefeld, and Mardy Ma.

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(l-r) Chase Liefeld as Matt and Bloom Li as Chang in ‘Chang Can Dunk’, now streaming on Disney+. All Rights Reserved by Disney.

Chang Can Dunk is much like any Disney Channel Original Movie that many millennials and Gen Z adults grew up watching day after day, year after year. It has the standard goal and obstacle, the overcoming of said obstacles, the corny pep talks and cringy jokes, and the finale. The film does get to a point where most of it becomes very predictable, but it becomes clear that the reason you’re watching this film is not for the end goal. It’s about the journey itself. In fact, I didn’t expect to see several story lines in the film be fully fleshed out. Of course, there is one exception to this that definitely would have built up a stronger foundation between our main character and his “antagonist”. 

(l-r) Zoe Renee as Kristy and Bloom Li as Chang in ‘Chang Can Dunk’, now streaming on Disney+. All Rights Reserved by Disney.

But once the general premise of the film is set, we hit the ground running with training montages and moments of growth. It carries on up until a point the audience would think is the finale but clearly with some runtime left, it’s clear things are not going to go smoothly for Chang. While the dialogue itself isn’t exactly the most well-written, the development of Chang as a character is surprisingly multi-layered. 

The movie presents him as a teenager in high school but there is also a great deal of time spent on his relationship with his immigrant mother and his identity as a Chinese-American, and what it means to be part of the Asian diaspora. But to peel back the layers even further, Chang himself is not perfect or the ideal hero, and comes with his faults and flaws that result in the mistakes he makes and the resentment he harbors. 

(l-r) Zoe Renee as Kristy, Bloom Li as Chang, Dexter Darden as Deandre, and Ben Wang as Bo in ‘Chang Can Dunk’, now streaming on Disney+. All Rights Reserved by Disney.

Even as the film industry begins to open the door that allows more diverse stories being told, it always comes as a surprise when a movie is led by a diverse cast, and written with layers that involve specific details of one’s culture and family routine. Chang Can Dunk might not seem important from afar but looking at the casting choices and the way the story is framed, it continues to push an important message: Representation Matters. And this is especially true in films led by Asians with narratives that aren’t typically offered to them. It’s easy to look over this movie but it shouldn’t be ignored. And frankly, if you can get past the rocky script, it makes for a wonderful, well-rounded story. So, whether you enjoy basketball, DCOM’s, Disney, or just film in general, Chang Can Dunk is a worthwhile watch in the end.

Samosa Rating:  

Chang Can Dunk receives 4 out of 5 Samosas. 

Chang Can Dunk is now available to stream on Disney+.  
Runtime: 1h 49m

Pooja Chand
Pooja Chand
Known on other platforms as Samosas and Popcorn, Pooja is a movie enthusiast topped with sprinkles of her love for TV. She can typically be found watching anything from the latest blockbuster movie to a feel good anime, and is always ready to start the discussion on movies and TV so you don't have to.

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