In order to bring great honor to our family, we shall now discuss

Mulan (1998)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 6

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 7

Characters/Characterization/Voice-Acting: 5

Art Direction/Design: 7.5

Themes/Archetypes/ Artistic Interpretation: 6.5

From Wiry:

I think we can all agree that Mulan is undoubtedly the finest tale based around a drag king that Disney's ever produced. I'm still waiting for the drag queen one, but, well, we can't have everything. Mulan is often considered the "girl power" flick of the Disney canon, and with good reason. I'd argue that Disney isn't as lacking in strong women as many people think (we spent a good portion earlier today watching Esmeralda take down ten men with a tin hat), but Mulan goes deeper into confronting gender issues than any other Disney movie.

It all starts shortly after Mulan accidentally mutilates the matchmaker. No, wait. Earlier. Incensed by the mere existence of the Great Wall, the leader of the Mongolian army (Shan Yu) starts invading China. So anyway. Back to Mulan. Emperor Mister Miyagi sends out an order than one man from every family must join the army. Unfortunately, Mulan's dad is a bit worse for wear from his military days, so Mulan decides to take his armor and his place. Several montages later, Mulan successfully destroys most of the Hun army and earns the gratitude of her sexy commander, Li Shang, only to immediately lose it when he discovers she doesn't have dangly bits. Mulan then follows the remnants of the Hun army into the Imperial City, convinces some of her soldier buddies to dress as concubines, and turns Shan Yu into a very pleasant light show. Li Shang follows her home, only to be hit on by Mulan's grandma. The end.

Let's get this big gay elephant out of the room right off the bat. No, I'm not talking about the blatantly gay misogynist right-hand man to the emperor who makes Mulan's life hell for a while. No, I'm talking about Eddie Murphy. Not Mushu, Eddie Murphy. I think we all realize now that this man poisons almost anything he touches. And while I found him infuriating when I first saw the movie, he's all the more pernicious with ten years of hindsight and bad memories. The Eddie Murphy grave is only deeper now, which makes the abyss of Mushu all the more terrifying. Not only is his shtick as funny as being trapped in a room with Jim Carrey on crystal meth, he leads an unholy legion of unnecessary sidekicks that crowd this film. We have the requisite three soldiers (see the Sleeping Beauty fairies, or the Hunchback gargoyles, for disparate examples of the rule of three conscience-sidekicks). But we also have the gratuitous cricket, the silent horse, and the dopey dog. Not to mention all those hard-partying ancestors. The point is, while Mulan's arc is interesting to watch, no space is left for other characters to develop. The result is that the movie is basically filled with sidekicks.

Musically, there's not much to say. "I'll Make a Man Out of You" is a great number, and "Reflection" isn't the worst of the Disney protagonist "I Want" numbers. But singing in this movie is mostly used to propel montages, as opposed to character development. And let's not forget the score, which sounds like Top Gun sneezing. Sort of.

Overall, there's not much to satisfy in the film. I feel bad, sort of, because I don't truly hate the film at all. But I certainly won't reach for it on the shelf when I'm looking for one of the newer Disney flicks. The art's great, at least.

From RM:

The Art IS great. Or at least, it's stylized to keep with the culture it is attempting to represent, which is more than can be said for many Disney films. Wiry already touched upon Mushu, which, when all is said and done, is the thing you walk away from this film with. A searing hatred of all that Eddie Murphy stands for.

I will say this, that the Fa family in this film is profoundly satisfying. It's a whole family, not only Mommy or only Daddy, but a whole family; With a sassy Grammy to boot! And those three characters are so well crafted, for the five minutes of air they get, that it just makes Eddie Murphy all the more frustrating.

I'm sorry. I'll find something else to talk about.

Shan Yu. The villain that wasn't stoic enough to be a silently intimidating force of nature, and not important enough to the story to have anything interesting done with him. When I look up and down the canon of Disney villains, it's hard to find a villain more thoroughly unsatisfying than Shan Yu. Since the story is Mulan bringing her family honor, and the main obstacle there is the enormously poor gay joke Chi Fu, I somewhat wish he had been made more of an antagonist, and Shan Yu had just been a silent tool of wrath that needed to be dealt with. Or that they had given Shan Yu more of a reason to do anything than because he's the necessary villain. People rail against this concept when I see it in other films, yet a villain in this who is barely more than an effective thug is somehow tolerated because he's a BIG effective thug. I don't buy into it.

Also, if I were China, I'd be more than a little offended as to how my culture was represented as basically a woman-hating, fascist regime, when in reality, most of the world was that way until 1900 or so. Just saying.

Mulan is a really well-crafted protagonist though. She prevents this from being much worse than a....

Final Grade: C+

Final Rankings:
1.) The Lion King
2.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
3.) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
4.) Lady and The Tramp
5.) The Great Mouse Detective
6.) The Jungle Book
7.) Mulan
8.) Fun and Fancy Free


I would like to publicly state for the record that although I was a part of the grading of this particular film, that I just flat-out love Mulan. It does have its faults, but it is important to recognize that this film is one of the few Disney movies where the main character is a Woman who's primary objective is to do something other than find a man and fall in love.

Although I support the C+ grade it must be pointed out that Mulan is a pretty kick-ass Disney Princess (it still is funny that she is listed as one of the canon Disney princesses, but Esmeralda from Hunchback is not).

That's all I got.


August 4, 2008 at 2:02 PM  

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