Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Movie Review: "Mulan" (1998)

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Director: Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook
Year: 1998
Rating: G
Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

A young girl named Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) poses as a man and joins the military to help restore her family's honor and fight the Hun invasion.

Disney's "Mulan" is an adaptation of a Chinese folktale about a young maiden who joins the Army and becomes a heroic soldier. Interestingly enough, 32 writers are credited in adapting this folktale to the big screen. It stars the voice talents of Ming-Na Wen as the titular Mulan, Eddie Murphy as her guardian dragon Mushu, and BD Wong as Shang, the young officer put in charge of Mulan's unit, with professional performing artists Lea Salonga and Donny Osmond doing the singing voices for Mulan and Shang.

This film came out at the tail end of the Golden Age of Disney animated films, post-"Aladdin" and "The Lion King"," but pre-"Tarzan" and "The Emperor's New Groove." It's one we feel is often overlooked, mainly because it is a bit more adult than some of the other films in their collection. This is a classic tale of female empowerment. It takes the idea of what a woman's socially acceptable gender role is supposed to be and turns it on its head. Mulan is expected to be and act one way by her family and her culture, but the life she has to lead doesn't really work for her. The beginning of the film shows what she has to go through to dress herself up in the hopes of finding an acceptable suitor, but Mulan is not a tender, delicate flower, she is a strong-willed fighter with a knack for tactics. After disgracing her family and on the eve of battle, Mulan poses as a man and enlists in her father's place in the impending war.

Juxtaposed with the training and fights she must go through, Mulan's trusty sidekick Mushu and her horse bring a lot of hilarious laughs to the table to balance the serious with the silly. The voice over work is top-notch all around, especially by Eddie Murphy. Mushu also has a quest of his own as he tries to redeem himself and take his rightful place in the spirit world. Other voice over work includes June Foray as Mulan's deceptively snarky Grandmother Fa, Miguel Ferrer's villainous interpretation as the awful Shan Yu, and Harvey Fierstein, Gedde Wantanabe, and Jerry Tondo as Yao, Ling, Chien-Po, three of Mulan's fellow soldiers who do and say funny things but are also a little competitive when training, and James Hong as Chi-Fu, Shan Yu's right hand man who is constantly suspicious of Mulan. The look and feel of "Mulan" is vibrant, clever, and fun. The animation is wonderful, colorful, and crisp. And finally, as with every Disney movie, we have to talk about the music! Though not as classic as some of Disney's other entries, I am personally a big fan of the songs in this film. I grew up with this movie, so I grew up singing them, but for BigJ, they are a bit hit and miss.

"Mulan" is a superb addition to the Disney animated family. The characters are extremely well developed and exist in a fun action adventure with some great songs, some iconic characters, and a really fantastic message about being true to yourself, even if it's not what other people had in mind for you and your life.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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