(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior)
Doug (vo): Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. Boy, that's a Disney Channel Original Movie title if I've ever heard one. This martial arts teen rom-com sounds absolutely ridiculous, and...yeah, it is. But it's also surprisingly charming and funny and actually kind of likeable. Don't get me wrong, it's got some bad moments...some laughably bad moments, but we'll get to them in a bit.
Doug (vo): A teenage monk is sent from his home to look for a reincarnated warrior. Assuring them he won't fail, they assure him that he's not the one he needs to worry about. For indeed, this ancient warrior is a teenage girl who is more obsessed with becoming Homecoming Queen than anything else. When the boy shows up, he clearly doesn't know how to blend in, and she gets freaked out by him. But when an evil master overlord something or other starts taking over people's bodies and starts using martial arts on everybody, she finally starts to listen to the boy and he convinces her that she's the only hope. This, of course, means she has to learn martial arts, he has to learn the wacky ways of blending in to be a common teenager, and they have to do all of this while preparing to be the Homecoming Queen.
Doug (vo): Yeah, you've heard this pretty stupid story before. It's kind of like Kung Fu Panda meets High School Musical. And indeed, a lot of this writing could very easily be portrayed in an either too corny way or too selfish way or annoying way. But thankfully, the direction really takes its time having some quiet moments and some softer moments and even some funny moments.
(Several characters are shown)
Doug (vo): The actors are all really likeable and have a really good chemistry off each other, particularly the family. And even though some of these characters are kind of archetypes, they're played a little bit more creatively. The jerky kids, for example, aren't just there to be the jerky kids. They're legitimately kind of funny and goofy, and I laugh at them every once in a while. I especially like this one girl who also wants to be Homecoming Queen, but she doesn't do the typical Disney bully thing where she calls her names or anything. It's all kind of these passive-aggressive compliments that are actually pretty funny. Wendy Wu herself is actually kind of a selfish character, but again, she plays it with enough charm and relatability that you're still, for the most part, on her side, and you laugh at her antics.
(Scenes from the film's climax are shown)
Doug (vo): The one point where it does start to get a little much, though, is the climax. First of all, there's a really dumb decision made by the main character, and after all that we've been watching her do and learn and stuff, you just don't buy it. They're always teaching her about her destiny and kind of this "end of the world" stuff, and when you see the choice she makes at first, it's really not believable. But thankfully, it doesn't take long, and we get to our big climax, and while the martial arts is pretty cool in it, there's a lot of silly stuff. For example, the monster possesses this girl, and she has the deep monster voice, and a lot of times, this thing is actually kind of intimidating, 'cause it goes from body to body, and it's kind of like It Follows, it's kind of creepy the way that he or she or whoever it is is kind of following her. But then when you hear this girl talk with this deep, menacing voice, it's just kind of ridiculous.
(Several slow-motion moments are shown)
Doug (vo): On top of that, a lot of the slow-mo in this movie is actually effectively done. I feel like they showed the really cool stuff to slow down and make it look impressive. But the downside is, a lot of the time, you can clearly see the stunt people, and they look nothing like the actors! Look at this. Couldn't they crop it just a little bit or not slow down this part? There must have been a better way to edit this so that you don't see that.
(Various scenes about to be described are shown)
Doug (vo): Any other problems I have are kind of nitpicks. For example, there's a scene where the boy offers them these little pies, and the father doesn't want to eat them, and we find out later it's because he feels like he's a little homesick, and he realizes he should think more about his Chinese culture, and the wife agrees, and it kind of doesn't go anywhere. Admittedly, it's a nice scene, 'cause these actors do it so well, but from a writing standpoint, it doesn't really lead to much. Once in a while, too, the boy can act a little weird. I don't know if his accent is too thick or his inflections are a little odd, but honestly, for the most part, he's pretty charming and works out okay. And like I said, this movie does surprisingly have a lot of charm. I like the creativity around a lot of these scenarios. For example, the first big martial arts fight is actually done in silence, because they don't want to wake the girl up. Admittedly, the boy should want to wake the girl up so that she can run away, but this is still pretty funny.
Doug (vo): So, yeah, this isn't anything great, but for a little movie with some martial arts and a couple of jokes and likeable people, I think it's totally fine. It's a very by-the-books story, but as these by-the-books stories go, I found myself legitimately enjoying it, and I think a lot of kids and even grown-ups will, too. It's silly, sure, but it's an enjoyable, even kind of impressive, silly. Like I said, the martial arts is pretty damn well done, especially for a Disney Channel movie, and I really like watching these characters. Take a look and get a kick out of it yourself.
(A scene showing Wendy Wu facing off against one of the villains is shown)