Mulan (1998) (G)
"Mulan" is about feminism, honor, and self-image more than it is about a girl and a dragon. The cross-dressing is Shakespearean and the comedy is full of double meanings. But all-in-all, "Mulan" is of the first Disney movies that features an incredibly strong female lead, though it wasn't until Pixar's "Brave" that a kid's movie really did the female warrior princess justice.
Mulan, the title character, is stuck in a semi-oppressive culture right at war time. She's a tomboy who would rather not have to dress up like a geisha (though those are Japanese) and go see the matchmaker, which is what she does in the first five minutes of the film. Even though she's all about woman power, the first sight of a hot man with no shirt on has her swooning. It was a good step in the right direction, but it wasn't a far enough step.
The Huns are attacking China. Why? you might ask and that is a good question...but one that the film never answers. They are lead by the gray skinned Shan-Yu, who is out just for power.
I noticed that most Disney villains are motivated by a greed for power and/or money. But of all the Disney bad guys, I find that Shan-Yu is the least developed. Scar ("The Lion King") wanted his brother's throne, as did Hades from "Hercules". Madame Medussa and Cruella De Vil were both evil for personal gain, but both were incredibly believable in their greed. Shan-Yu doesn't spend enough time on screen to share the likes of the other Disney villains like Ursula and Jafar.
When the word spreads that Huns are taking over the land, the Chinese government demands that one man from every household must fight for China. Mulan's father is wounded from the last war and walks with a limp.
When the draft comes for him, Mulan asks why he can't just stay home since he already fought in one war. She is told to shut-up and get back in the kitchen. Her father tells her that she has brought dishonor to her family.
But Mulan's concern for her father outweighs her sticking to traditions and she steals away in the middle of the night with her dad's armor.
Then it's off to save the world.
"Mulan" deals heavily with the power of the spiritual and the ancestors of those living. When "Mulan" leaves, her ancestors awaken and decide to send a spirit to fetch her back before anything bad happens. By a sheer accident, Mushu, a demoted dragon ends up going after Mulan.
Mushu is determined to bring Mulan back a war hero to prove to the ancestors that he's still got it; and naturally things don't always go to war.
Mulan dresses as a boy in the army and if she is revealed to not be a man she will be killed—bummer for women.
So it's a little bit of "Twelfth Night" mixed with a small portion of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".
The animation of "Mulan" isn't the best, indeed it can be childish at times.
The voice acting is good, though it falls into the familiar trap of Disney in that it American-izes the cast.
This isn't the best Disney, but it is fun...if too preachy. Also, the ending is decidedly anti-feminist for a movie about strong women.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones