Saturday, June 24, 2006

TV Movie Review: Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior

Of all the things Disney is known for, it's always fascinated me that this company has the innate ability to find and cultivate generation after generation of young stars. It has been especially good in the last 20 years or so. The 90's incarnation of the Mickey Mouse Club brought us Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, Keri Russell, and Christina Aguilera. Lindsay Lohan got her big break in a remake of The Parent Trap and Disney kept her working in TV movies and a big-screen remake of Freaky Friday before Mean Girls really put her on the map. Hilary Duff got her break on the Disney Channel series Lizzie McGuire while Shia LeBeouf started off on the Disney Channel series Even Stevens. Disney even helped The Cosby Show's Raven Symone go from kid star to teen star with her series That's So Raven and the popular TV movie The Cheetah Girls.

Many of the new generation of Disney stars work their way through other Disney stuff before getting a chance to shine on their own. One such actress is Brenda Song. After supporting roles in three Disney Channel original movies as well as supporting roles on two Disney Channel series, she finally has gotten her break in the Disney Channel original movie Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. This is a surprisingly good movie that combines humor and action in a family-friendly package.

Brenda plays Wendy Wu, a normal teenage girl who is obsessed with becoming homecoming queen. She has an incredibly shallow boyfriend, a lifelong rival who also wants to be homecoming queen, and lives with her parents, older brother, and grandmother. One day, she is visited by Shen (Shin Koyamada), a Buddhist monk who tells her that she is descended from a long line of warriors and that she is in danger. Every 90 years, an evil spirit by the name of Yan-Lo appears and tries to take over the world. Wendy must train in order to fulfill her and Shen's destiny of defeating the evil spirit once again. Of course, Wendy doesn't take the news very well at first. Much of the humor in the early parts of the film comes from Wendy's repeated attempts to avoid Shen. Over time, she not only learns to accept her destiny, she also learns that destiny is what you make of it.

In real life, Brenda Song is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and it's put to use in this movie. She kicks, punches, and flies her way through this film and looks pretty convincing. The film was directed by John Laing, a veteran of some of the more recent Power Rangers shows. The action scenes (and their wire work) are pretty well-done. My personal favorite sequence is a "quiet" fight scene that has shades of Jackie Chan films in its choreography. However, parents should take note that because of the action sequences, this movie got a TV-PG rating (the warning at the beginning of the film is hilarious, by the way).

While the action scenes are certainly the high points of the movie, the underlying themes keep things interesting. One such thing is the importance of knowing your culture. In the film, Wendy and her family are Chinese-American. However, most of them don't really care about their culture. In the beginning, only the grandmother (played by veteran actress Tsai Chin) really cares about her Chinese heritage. These themes are ones that are prevalent in the households of first and second-generation Americans and it's interesting to see them dealt with in a family film. It's also interesting to note that this movie just might be the first Disney Channel original movie with a predominantly Asian cast.

Like other Disney Channel original movies, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior is fun to watch and better than you'd expect. Although I'm outside of the target audience for these movies, I have always enjoyed watching them. Not only are they consistently entertaining, they also give you a peek at the stars of tomorrow. If history repeats itself, Brenda Song's star is rising as we speak.

1 comment:

  1. you forgot about Usher who was a mouseketeer and Christina Milian who starred on Disney's movie surfers.