Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior (2006)

Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior (2006)

After portraying the smart, stylish, lovable best friend for three different DCOMs, Brenda Song was celebrated as the movie star she’s always been in Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. She plays the titular Wendy, who is in the running for Homecoming Queen but must turn her attention to being, well, a warrior. Wendy is Chinese-American, though Brenda Song is Thai and Hmong-American. Cultural backgrounds and family history are relevant to some other DCOMs — Johnny Tsunami, Rip Girls, The Luck of the Irish, Spin!, for a few good examples. To date, Wendy Wu is the only Disney Channel Original Movie to focus on the ancestry of a Chinese-American character. The film was directed by John Laing and written by Vince Cheung, Ben Montanio, B. Mark Seabrooks, and Lydia Look. Cheung and Montanio appear to have been writing partners on Wizards of Waverly Place. Per IMDb, Brenda Song got a co-producing credit, and Ralph Farquhar of The Proud Family was the executive producer.

Wendy and Shen fighting

I have never been the most ardent fan of action movies in general, and Wendy Wu is one of Disney Channel’s few action movies. However, I like that the film is balanced with character depictions of Wendy as a high school girl — like Song’s other characters, she is fashionable and popular. Her boyfriend Austin is a tool, and her friends are just as focused on Wendy winning Homecoming Queen as she is. I also think it’s good that in the film’s setup, we are not to assume that Wendy is concerned with her culture, and neither are her parents, at first. The significance of her background for the movie’s purposes is that Wendy is a descendant of a Yin warrior. Therefore, she must defeat an evil spirit named Yan Lo, who comes back to fight every 90 years. Wendy wears a protective amulet and trains with Shen, a reincarnated Buddhist monk she passes off as her cousin. Shen arrives in Wendy’s home while she’s asleep after baking her Homecoming cupcakes. He sees that Wendy’s brother has been possessed by the spirit and proceeds to fight the brother until the trance wears off. Wendy doesn’t want anything to do with Shen initially, but she realizes the huge responsibility on her shoulders and finally accepts it. Shen enjoys hanging out and drinking cappuccinos with Wendy, so the cousin thing doesn’t really work. But at the end of Wendy’s epic fight against Yan Lo (the night of Homecoming, of course), Shen gets to keep his last life, leaving the door open for a friendship or more with Wendy. Yan Lo can take over any person’s body, so it seems apropos that he fights Wendy through Jessica, her Homecoming rival. Wendy’s grandmother is the only one who seemed to know that Wendy would be the warrior.

Brenda Song is proud of her work on Wendy Wu. She said in a Cosmopolitan video interview, “I have a black belt in martial arts, and a lot people don’t know that ‘cause I think a lot of the characters I play are super girly. This was like an opportunity to show this other side that a lot of people didn’t know.” She continued, “What I really loved was, at the time, Disney Channel was already color-blind casting and being able to tell stories about different cultures and different races… Getting to sort of send a positive message about being different, being from someplace different, eating different foods, and also getting to delve into a really fun genre that is very different from London Tipton was so fun for me.” London Tipton will always be iconic, but so will Wendy Wu. I’m a huge Brenda Song fan and am so happy she maintains a long, fulfilling relationship with the Disney Channel.

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