Mulan

"Very Good"

Mulan Review


In the rush to contrast the early-nineties Disney golden age (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King) with the current crop of underperformers (Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, Home on the Range) that have resulted in Disney's foolhardy decision to jettison hand-drawn animation, some pretty decent films have been lost in the shuffle. Disney's Mulan, for example, is a beautifully drawn and exciting little adventure movie from 1998 (when it was a decent-sized hit, too). It's no kind of classic, but who says Disney Animation can't put out something minor now and again?

In their own ways, the late-nineties Disney cartoons (which include the similarly mythical Hercules and Tarzan) take risks in stylization and subject matter. The semi-experiment here is to craft a story around a strong female protagonist who is not, on any level, a princess (even intelligent and bookish Belle in Beauty and the Beast is defined by a love story with a prince, handsome or not). The title character (voiced by Ming-Na (now sans the Wen)) masquerades as a man in order to take her aging father's place in the Chinese army; it won't spoil your enjoyment to know that she isn't instantly killed and forgotten.

Nor does the movie break from formula in many other notable ways; there's still a bland, princely love interest and a team of bland, enthusiastic animal sidekicks -- Mulan's guardian mini-dragon Mushu for one; her faithful steed for another; and her pet cricket for one too many. The action sequences, like a massive battleground avalanche, are so good that the patented Disney story beats -- the protagonist's declaration of uncertainty; accusations of deception and/or betrayal; a cheery finale -- feel like filler, not backbone. What could be a touching, personal story buckles under the weight of Disney's patented team writing policy -- good for gag-based films, but maybe not for a warrior's tale.

This is most apparent when the characters occasionally sing: The death knell for the automatic musicalization of Disney films is sounded via four awful, half-hearted songs that have no place in a grand adventure. Still, the music is mostly out of the picture by the halfway mark, and Mulan proceeds as a female-driven action movie -- a relatively rare experience for kids and even their more seasoned moviegoing parents.

You can also credit Disney for getting to the Eddie Murphy Cartoon Sidekick well first -- DreamWorks may have hit paydirt with his work as Donkey in the Shrek films, but Murphy practiced this routine in Mulan as the tiny Mushu. His comic riffs are more out of place here than in an out-and-out comedy like Shrek, but on its own, Murphy's part is a pointless but amusing bit of comic relief.

So Mulan remains squarely in the realm of family entertainment, but it's lush and effective as such (if a little more violent than usual). The animated set design of Chinese palaces and landscapes is eye-catching, and the villain Shan-Yu (Miguel Ferrer) cuts a menacing figure. I'll take this swordplay and fireworks over Cinderella any day.

The new DVD release includes a deleted song and scenes, plus the usual kid's games and behind-the-scenes peeks.

[]Join the Disney Movie Club and get three free Disney DVDs![][]



Mulan

Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th June 1998

Box Office Worldwide: $304.3M

Budget: $90M

Distributed by: Buena Vista

Production compaines: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Feature Animation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 63 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Tony Bancroft,

Producer:

Starring: as Mulan (voice), as Mulan (singing voice), as Grandmother Fa (voice), Soon-Tek Oh as Fa Zhou (voice), as Fa Li (voice), as Chi Fu (voice), BD Wong as Shang (voice), as Shang (singing voice), as The Emperor (voice), as Yao (voice), as Mushu (voice), Marni Nixon as Grandmother Fa (singing voice), as First Ancestor (voice), Jerry Tondo as Chien-Po (voice), as Ling (voice), as Shan-Yu (voice), as General Li (voice), as Khan / Cri-Kee (voice), as The Matchmaker (voice), as Ling (singing voice)

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.