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29 June 2006 @ 09:10 am
Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior (Movie Review)  
On June 16th, I watched the premiere of Disney Channel's original movie, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. Granted I'm not much of a Disney Channel watcher anymore these days, because I much prefer the old school era when they would actually have worthwhile shows and movies shown. However, after seeing previews for this movie, I was intrigued and soon afterwards, to be impressed with its production. Also, my ultimate purpose for watching it was for Brenda Song, because I just love her.

Instead of giving my overall likes and reactions, I gave a thorough overview of the whole movie, along with analyzing certain parts and its connections.

The Overview of the Movie

Wendy Wu (played by Brenda Song) is the reincarnation of an ancient Chinese warrior who is destined to battle an evil force before the world is destroyed. But unlike her previous lives, Wendy has absolutely no time in dealing with the fate of the entire world, for she is worrying to much with competing against her nemesis over the homecoming crown, having the perfect boyfriend and friends, while keeping her popularity in check. Very typical and overplayed plot point that's in most Disney stuff, might I just add. However, I was actually anticipating hearing Brenda say a "yay me!" while clapping in a casual way during a scene, in reference to her character of London Tipton on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. But alas, not this time.

Wendy is already experiencing bizarre occurrences in her behavior that represent the warrior within herself, and though perplexed in wonderment she mentally shakes it off. It isn't until a Chinese monk by the name of Shin (played by The Last Samurai's Shin Koyamada) who continuously warns of her the danger she's in and that she must start training immediately before the battle against the great evil, Yan Lo, a spirit-like entity that acts like a parasite that possesses different human/living bodies in order to get to Wendy. At first Wendy rejects her destiny and dismisses Shin, however eventually is persuaded once Shin offers a bargain bribe that if she trained with him, he would help her study and pass her geography class in order to be eligible for Homecoming Queen. She agrees to these terms. Using the meditation methods to pass her class, which she does, Wendy still doesn't quite comprehend her warrior calling and is too fixated with winning at Homecoming; it isn't until an unfortunate event where the evil spirit has possessed one of her best friends at a party, and tries to destroy her, that she understands how dangerous her mission is. This is where she fully agrees to train with Shin.

It is until this moment we finally see Wendy really making an effort to learn everything she can, and also we clearly see her attachment to Shin as he helps her understand her Chinese culture, along having her help him adapt into the Western culture. Finally, Wendy has been titled Homecoming Queen and she is completely psyched, and thanks Shin for his help. However, a downside to this news is that Shin had mentioned that he's destined to perish during the battle while protecting her. The battle apparently is on the evening of Homecoming. Needless to say, Wendy is saddened and angry about this news arriving too late, and instead she gets ready for her crowning at Homecoming; though she is persuaded by her faithful grandmother and the ancient Chinese monks once realizing that Shin has gone off to the battle, alone. Wendy fully understands her mission and destiny, and fights side-by-side with Shin and in the fight against Yan Lo (who has, ironically, possessed her arch nemesis who'd competed against her for the Homecoming crown).

In the end after the impressive battle and fight sequences, Wendy comes to terms that there's more to life than worrying about her popularity, and she demonstrates this by letting her competitor take the Homecoming Queen title. The morality of the story is understanding where you came from, your heritage and cultural background that makes up for you who are. Overall, it's a very enjoyable and entertaining movie that really focuses more on the Asian-American lifestyles, and learning more about one's culture which I liked the most.

Analyzing Wendy Wu

Honestly, what's a movie review without a little analyzing here and there? Apparently, some have already analyzed it by comparing the storyline with a certain vampire slayer. However, the article is comparing it to the series whereas I'm reminded of the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, as some order of events are reminiscent of each other.

For example, in the beginning we see Wendy living casually in her daily life, when suddenly she starts experiencing something strange happening to her with her actions, such as throwing a stick up lipstick like a weapon (resembling how when Merrick threw the knife at Buffy, and she caught it without blinking an eye), and especially the training sequences which is definitely similar to how Merrick trained Buffy. The possessing of bodies as hosts for the spiritual entities are almost like how people were turned into vampires, and in the end Wendy and Shin run off together just like Buffy and Pike. However, I wouldn't necessarily call Wendy Wu a rip-off from BtVS, but rather another cliché story about a girl with a specific calling and destiny that she has no control over whatsoever, I also think it was intentional for it to be compared to Buffy, actually. It's a typical kind of plot, yet it totally works to get addicted off of, that's for sure. In fact, it had the highest ratings than it was expected to. So, there's a plus.

There's also the amount of martial arts that's used in Wendy Wu, resembling a mixture of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Power Rangers. Also, the education of traditional Chinese martial arts using the Five Animal martial art training method, and the cultural understanding of meditation and other parts of East-Asia countries. My favorite parts are when Wendy's family starts to rediscover their own roots after Shin arrives, and the grandmother was most entertaining as the wise elder advising and provoking Wendy to continue onward with her destiny as a warrior. Coming back to the fighting, the sequence in the beginning between Shin and Wendy's brother who has been possessed by the spirit seemed to have gone over just a little bit, however it was entertaining and the moves were spectacular.

The Relationships Between Characters

The chemistry between Wendy and Shin is clearly shown as the movie progresses. Implications of a possible romantic interest in one another, along with the presented incestuous undertones, given how Wendy continuously tells her classmates that Shin is her cousin from China and the grandmother telling the family that he's a long-lost relative. That had to happen to protect the real reason Shin was visiting. Though it's witnessed after Wendy makes him over to have him fit into the Western culture better that we suddenly see how attached she is to him. While attending a party a girl asks if Shin would dance with him, and after Wendy says that he's with her, the girls retorts back with, "But, I thought he was your cousin?" This leads Wendy to breaking up with her self-absorbed boyfriend at the party, after having a discussion over her relationship with him the night before with Shin, and once seeing the girl dancing with Shin kiss him on the cheek, jealousy is shown in her expression and she leaves in tears.

Whether or not it was originally intended for their friendship to have a potential hint of romance, that's the impression I'd gotten, particularly in the end when Wendy saves Shin's life; there was a great amount of power serging through her at that moment. Even the ancient monks who'd helped through her training process acknowledged this. So, yes, I guess you can say I am definitely for Wendy and Shin being together romantically.

Throughout the entire movie, I was disappointed that there wasn't much of Wendy's family except for in a few scenes. Also, we hardly got to see much of anything of interaction between Wendy and her family sans some scattered scenes here and there. Now, understandably this is primarily about Wendy and her spiritual and personal awakening, however it would've been nice to see more interaction between her family. Her parents, in particular. In the beginning there seemed to have been quite a few scenes with them, setting up for a possible subplot important to the storyline, however as for the second hour of the movie they seemed to have disappeared. Also, there rarely was any interaction between Wendy and her brother besides that beginning scene with the Kung Fu-Lipstick throw through his cookie, and him being possessed in that long martial arts sequence. However, I do understand why it was limited time for them in general. Wendy's parents, for example, were going through what Wendy is going through --- rediscovering their roots and heritage, as seen with the mooncake scene and Wendy's mother researching for the Chinese exhibit. Hey, even her brother seemed to be interested in martial arts (ironically enough, since he was unconsciously possessed by the spirit). I think the only adult authority figure that counted above all the others seemed to have been the grandmother. She believed in Wendy and knew immediately why Shin had arrived to protect her, so she served much of a purpose because she was the only one of the family that really understood what was going on.

I guess I wanted more of the family interaction despite that it wasn't necessarily about that kind of connection, but rather an enlightenment of knowing where one is from and coming to terms with that instead of surpressing it. Not only does Wendy do just this while training and learning from Shin, but it's because of him that her family is doing the same thing. Almost reawakening themselves along with Wendy.

Wendy's relationship with the other characters seemed realistic enough, with her friends and superficial boyfriend, to her casual competitive animosity between her arch nemesis.

Overall Reaction

I knew once seeing the previews that this movie was going to be something I needed to see, and having Brenda Song in the leading role made it even better. Surprisingly, it didn't fail to disappoint. There were some scenes that seemed unrealistic, like as Wendy is meditating on top of her desk in the middle of class and so forth, however because of the content of this being a supernatural-esque kind of movie it was acceptable (also, Brenda was trained by Koichi Sakamoto who is responsible for the stunts and action scenes in Power Rangers, so there's another aspect). Plus, it's Disney for goodness sakes, they thrive on the absolutely cheese-factor and corniest of things that appeal to the younger generation. I loved Brenda in this role, and hopefully this'll open plenty of other doors outside of the Disney contract. So, I found this movie to be entertaining, along with educational and inspirational.


Small trivia: In case anyone doesn't know this little bit of information, Brenda Song has a Tae Kwon Do black belt in real life. I'm wondering if she and Summer Glau can do a faceoff or, perhaps even a better idea, in this article giving a further in-depth look a the production and creation of Wendy Wu, Koichi Sakamoto announces that "Brenda would make an excellent Power Ranger". Now that's something I'd like to see, most definitely.

Also, I'd also like to point out that while Disney Channel has aired PG and PG-13 material on their network before, Wendy Wu is the first Disney Channel Original Movie to actually have a TV-PG rating, in which it was parodied by having a hilarious little warning before the movie started. It mainly was for the fight sequences, but still funny nonetheless.
 
 
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Elise: _kathi_behrbemine on July 11th, 2006 08:09 am (UTC)
Ah, the Disney channel... How I miss it. The closest I get to it these days is my '7th Heaven'. I love innocence sometimes. It makes me feel... safe... somehow. You know? Little. Not in an insignificant way, but in a protected way. I liked that. I miss it.