This retelling of the old Chinese folktale is about the story of a young Chinese maiden who learns that her weakened and lame father is to be called up into the army in order to fight the invading Huns. Knowing that he would never survive the rigours of war in his state, she decides to disguise herself and join in his place. Unknown to her, her ancestors are aware of this and to prevent it, they order a tiny disgraced dragon, Mushu to join her in order to force her to abandon her plan. He agrees, but when he meets Mulan, he learns that she cannot be dissuaded and so decides to help her in the perilous times ahead.
Yes, Disney’s Mulan is very much a western/ American movie, made for western and American- not Asian- audiences. No, they “didn’t get it right”; or, not exactly. But I never expected them to, and I give them a good deal of credit for trying. They came quite a bit closer that I ever thought that they would. Nor do I find this movie overly feminist (no more than Snow White or Cinderella are “chauvinist”). Mulan may be a strong female character, but she is not Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine. Mulan is not defined by rebellion, nor by what she rejects. Instead she upholds her sense of honor as she struggles to find out who she is and where she fits in. Moreover, in a genre known for its blatant ad nauseum boy-meets-girl love themes, I truly appreciated the downplayed understatedness of the “interest” between Mulan and Captain Shang.
As to the “commercial” aspect of the film; yes, it had its tie-ins and its merchandising. What Disney movie doesn’t? But the real issue is the worth of the film itself, and on this I take exception to the review below. I believe there is more in it than Mr. Mydo gives credit for.
The film does have its awkward moments. The scene with the match-maker and Mulan’s first entrance into the army camp are both extremely painful to watch- I do not enjoy watching anyone be utterly humiliated- not even a cartoon character (and I do not believe that someone as bright as Mulan would fumble so badly over simply coming up with a new name). I also find it somewhat irksome that one minor character, Mushu the dragon, continually steals attention away from the movie’s proper focus. And there are a number of jokes and visual gags that closely border on PG. I found this in somewhat poor taste in a kid’s movie.
But these faults are counterbalanced, and more than compensated for, by the scenes that really work. The opening “brush painting” of the Great Wall; Mulan’s song (Reflections) and the ensuing scene of loving encouragement from her father; the scene where she decides to leave home; her heart-to-heart talk with Mushu at the abandoned camp in the mountains; the Imperial Palace where she is honored by the Emperor before all China… the sheer artistry of these scenes is breathtaking.