This Disney+ movie shoots some hoop dreams
“Chang Can Dunk” is another entertaining underdog basketball movie to come out this weekend, after “Champions.” That one starred Woody Harrelson as a drunken coach who trains a group of disabled young adults in the game; this one features an Asian-American boy who stands at 5’8, and makes a bet with a basketball star that he can dunk him.
Both of these films can be funny with honesty, and their honesty can be consistent. “Chang Can Dunk” may appear to be typical, but it actually had me tickled at its choice of humor and rooting for this kid.
We meet Chang (Bloom Li), the 5’8 boy living with his single mom (Mardy Ma), who tells him that he gives up on a number of things. He said he wanted to volunteer at the hospital, but would rather work to make money for college. He’s also in love with the new girl Kristy (Zoe Renee), who might be at the center of a love triangle between Chang and the basketball star Matt (Chase Liesfield). That’s why he makes that bet with him to make a slam dunk, and earn the meme “Chang Can Dunk.”
They bet each others’ prized possessions, although given Chang’s bowl hairstyle, I think shaving each others’ heads would be the better option. What’s he trying to be? Like Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber?” I asked the same thing about Charlize Theron in “F9.” But eventually, he comes around.
You know what? I don’t want to make this about hairstyles. So let’s move on.
Dexter Darden (fresh from the awful “It’s a Wonderful Binge”) plays his coach Deandre-a would-be YouTube star with his Steve Urkel cosplay who works at a Verizon store, since his videos don’t give him the kind of views to make him money. He agrees to train Chang if his buddy Bo (Ben Wang) can make his videos look like they were made by Scorsese. Actually, he wants Michael Bay, which is so typical, but a deal’s a deal.
When Chang does make that slam dunk, I was wondering if that was supposed to be a dream sequence, and that we were supposed to get to real clip, just so the film can be longer. It knows better than that. A few parts regarding how this kid treats his friends after the slam dunk are predictable, but others are actually wiser than I expected. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wouldn’t be over that quickly.
“Chang Can Dunk” is a silly, yet affectionate movie made for the right target audience-not the kind Scott Beck and Bryan Wood thought were stupid enough to enjoy “65,” but the kind who admire sports movies. Even they agree “Space Jam: A New Legacy” was a bad basketball movie. This is a good basketball movie, and I like how it and “Champions” express their own themes for their players. “Chang Can Dunk” uses some Asian themes, but also expresses them for the American audience, like how the mom is miserable enough to make her boy distant from her.
I’ve never heard of Li, Wang, Renee, or Ma, but they all do some good work here. I know who Darden is, and I know he has some value here. Their characters can goof off, at times, but they don’t condescend themselves. Rather they seem to love sports movies cliches, but at the same time, they seem to be enjoying themselves.
This movie can dunk.
Streaming on Disney+