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"MULAN"
(1998) (voices of Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy) (G)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
None Minor Heavy *Moderate Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor Minor Heavy None None
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
*Minor None Mild Mild *Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Children's/Animated: Disguised as a man, and to prevent her father from having to go to war, a young Chinese woman joins the Army to fight the invading Huns.
PLOT:
In imperial China, the ruthless Hun leader, Shan-Yu (voice of Miguel Ferrer), and his army have launched an invasion across the Great Wall. Thus, China's Emperor (voice of Pat Morita) declares that one man from every family must serve in the Imperial Army to repel the invading Huns. His aide, Chi Fu (voice of James Hong), then sets out to round up this army and arrives in a distant village, the home of a young woman by the name of Mulan (voice of Ming-Na Wen, singing by Lea Salonga).

She's the only child of Fa Zhou (voice of Soon-Tek Oh), who desperately wants her to marry to bring honor to their family. Unfortunately, Mulan's free-spirited nature doesn't quite fit with the traditional, cultural characteristics needed to be a bride. She gets a chance, however, when her father, despite his fragile health and advanced age, agrees to serve in the Army. Knowing that his participation will surely lead to his death, Mulan cuts her hair and dresses like a young man. Donning her father's armor, she then joins the Army.

Worried about this new threat to the family's honor, the ancestral spirits get together and decide they must send a guardian to protect Mulan. Mushu (voice of Eddie Murphy) a tiny, jive-talking dragon and ancestral outcast, secretly sets out to watch over Mulan, and is accompanied by her diminutive good luck cricket, Cri-Kee.

Arriving at the training camp, Mulan, with some assistance and comic suggestions from Mushu, sets out to prove her worth, albeit as a man. There, and using the alias, Ping, she meets the dashing young Captain, Shang (voice of B.D. Wong, singing by Donny Osmond) as well as fellow recruits Chien-Po (voice of Jerry Tondo), a gentle giant, Yao (voice of Harvey Fierstein), a hothead who immediately has it in for Mulan, and Ling (voice of Gedde Watanabe).

Eventually, her smarts and determination prove she's a worthy soldier, and their small army sets out to find and battle the Huns. As ever greater dangers and obstacles appear, Mulan must deal not only with them, but with the fact that Shang and the others might eventually discover that she's really a young woman.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they like animated Disney films, the answer is yes.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: G
For not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • It's questionable how kids view animated characters as role models, but here goes:
  • MULAN is a free-spirited woman who doesn't fit into the traditional and cultural mold of being a Chinese wife. Although she runs away from home to join the army (to save her father's life), she proves that intelligence is just as important as brawn and she becomes the big hero as she saves the day.
  • SHANG is the dashing young Captain who heads up his ragtag group of soldiers to fight the Huns. Although he has a (tradition-based) bad attitude toward Mulan once he discovers her secret, he ends up as an okay guy.
  • MUSHU is the wisecracking diminutive dragon who assists and protects Mulan.
  • SHAN-YU is the evil, muscle-bound leader of the Huns who plan to kill and pillage their way through China.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 8.5 out of 10
    One of Disney's best "modern" animated efforts, "Mulan" features some great animation, winning songs, and a compelling, if not somewhat sanitized plot. Certain to please both children, their parents, and nearly everyone else, this may be Disney's biggest animated hit in quite some time. After a succession of lowering returns for their "cartoon" efforts, this should please those working for the big Mouse.

    That is, as long as audiences flock to a story that's probably not overly familiar to western audiences. Based on a popular 2,000 year old plus Chinese fable, the story might not have a built- in draw, but then again, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Hercules" didn't exactly live up to the critical and financial standards set by "The Lion King."

    Fortunately, it does have the universal themes of family and honor and its main character is a slightly flawed (ie. normal), but determined and completely likeable and sympathetic creation. While not as terrific as my personal Disney favorite (1991's "Beauty and the Beast" -- still the only animated film ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar), this film does have many positive things going for it and comes off as a very good picture.

    The animation, while not always quite up to par with Fox's "Anastasia," and briefly suffering from some surprisingly flat work early in the story, is exceptional for most of the film. A middle set piece -- featuring a shower of flaming arrows, a thundering "stampede" of attacking Huns on horseback, and a subsequent avalanche -- is jaw dropping in scope and visually stunning.

    As with Disney's other modern animated features, this one's a musical and is arguably the best since "Aladdin." With the musical composition by Matthew Wilder (who had a big hit with the pop single "(Ain't Nothin' Gonna) Break My Stride") and song lyrics by David Zippel ("Go The Distance" from "Hercules"), the songs are good across the board. While not as fun or as exceptional as some of Disney's other work (notably the collective efforts of Alan Menken & Howard Ashman), several songs stand out, including "Reflection," "A Girl Worth Fighting For," and the winning "I'll Make A Man Out Of You" (sung by Donny Osmond).

    The other obligatory element found in all of these films is the comic sidekick, who usually appears in the form of an animal or other nonhuman creature. Obviously included to amuse the kids (and hopefully sell lots of stuffed toys) and to provide some comic relief (in this otherwise serious drama), this is the strongest such character since Robin Williams' take as the genie in "Aladdin."

    Seemingly given free reign with his dialogue (but not the stream of consciousness that Williams rattled off), Eddie Murphy takes his jive-talking, diminutive dragon to comic extremes. While some may believe that his comedy doesn't quite fit in with the story (the same is true of Williams' material in that other film), it's a comic delight nonetheless and I didn't find it distracting in the slightest. The nice thing is that the humor plays equally well to kids and adults, and often comes from other sources besides Murphy's hilarious character.

    The story itself (credited to a team of five scribes), is well-written, and while not unpredictable to any great extent, easily maintains one's attention throughout. While there have been some complaints that Disney has carefully whitewashed any potential political or other incorrectness from the picture, it's not so obvious that it becomes a distraction. In fact, the film's majority use of Asian voice talents (when others could easily have adopted the proper "sound") should be commended and the vocal and singing efforts are all quite strong.

    Once again it's nice to see a strong female protagonist as the lead character, especially one who ably overcomes personal and exterior obstacles to achieve her goal. In doing so, the character of Mulan should become a new favorite among kids. Most of the rest of the characters fall into the standard animated quota, with the dashing and strapping young man, the muscular and evil villain, and the comic buffoons. It's good, however, to see a strong characterization for the part of Mulan's proud, but aged father.

    Only history -- and box office receipts -- will tell if this film is destined to become a Disney classic, but it certainly has most of the necessary ingredients. Featuring a decent arrangement of songs, many funny moments, and the occasional awe-inspiring animation, this film should be a hit. We enjoyed it a great deal, and thus give "Mulan" an 8.5 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    As in many of Disney's other animated films, a few moments may prove to be scary or unsettling to the youngest of viewers. Even so, a child's age, maturity level, and tolerance for some menacing characters, suspenseful music and tense and violent scenes will obviously influence their reaction to such material. Beyond the villainous characters and the scary and suspenseful moments, there's the standard "slapstick" cartoon violence, but also some implied deadly violence, including a scene where many soldiers and civilians are seen lying dead on a far off field. While some mature themes dominate the proceedings, enough humor and comedic characters are present to make the film quite enjoyable. Nonetheless, you may want to take a closer look at the film's content just to make sure your child (if very young) won't be too frightened by it.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • None.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Mulan has just a tiny bit of a bloody gash on her stomach and some blood on her hand after a combat-induced wound.
  • An ancestral ghost holds his own decapitated head, but it's done for laughs and not gore or to be scary.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Obviously Shan-Yu and the rest of the murderous, pillaging Huns have both.
  • Shang and his subordinates have both toward Mulan after they learn that she's really a woman.
  • After a disastrous matchmaking session, a matchmaker tells Mulan that she may look like a bride, but "You'll never bring your family honor."
  • The emperor's aide tells Mulan's father, "You'd do well to teach your daughter to hold her tongue in a man's presence."
  • Chi Fu has both toward Shang and his men for not making good soldiers, and he later states that Mulan is just a woman and therefore not worth anything (he gets fired because of that).
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Depending on the age of your child and their tolerance level, the scenes with the Huns may be unsettling or downright scary to them. Their menacing appearance, meanspirited and violent behavior, and suspenseful music that accompanies their scenes (throughout the movie) may or may not be that way to your kids.
  • The Huns appear on the Great Wall, and attack the guards.
  • A few, brief thunderstorm scenes may unsettle kids who don't like such activity.
  • Some kids may be upset when Mulan's mother tells her husband that he must go after Mulan or she'll be killed, and having him then reply, "If I reveal her, she will be."
  • The family's ancestral ghosts and their initial appearance may scare some kids, but everything turns comical rather quickly.
  • Shan-Yu lifts a Chinese scout from the ground by the throat and pulls out his sword as if he's going to strike him, but instead throws him to the ground. As the two scouts run off to deliver Shan-Yu's warning, he states that only one person is needed to deliver the message. As we see one of his henchmen draw back on his arrow and let it fly, the screen goes black (and we assume one of the scouts is killed).
  • Shang and his troops come across a burned out village and a far off field of many dead soldiers and civilians, the result of a violent and deadly incursion with the Huns.
  • The Huns fire arrows (plain and burning) at Shang and his troops and then come thundering down a snow-covered hill toward them. An ingenious solution by Mulan causes an avalanche that sweeps them away, but that also endangers her and the others as they're caught up in a "white water rapids" type of racing avalanche that ends in a true cliffhanger scene. This several minute sequence may be quite intense for younger kids.
  • Walking up to Mulan after discovering her true gender, Shang appears ready to strike her with his sword, but then throws it down in front of her.
  • The Huns grab the Emperor and Mulan, Shang and company attempt to rescue him and must fight with Shan-Yu and his henchmen in the big, several minute finale (where both Mulan and Shang are nearly killed).
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Swords/Bows & Arrows/Chinese Cannons: Used to threaten, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Loser," "Pretty boy," and "Jerks."
  • Mulan writes "cheat notes" on her arm to be able to answer the Matchmaker's questions.
  • Mulan cuts off some of her hair with a sword.
  • We briefly see a man with his finger up his nose, and another man spits on the ground.
  • Mulan then tries to spit like a man, but instead does more drooling then spitting.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • A hand (belonging to a Hun buried in an avalanche) suddenly pops up out of the snow.
  • Shan-Yu suddenly pops up through the roof where Mulan is walking.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A heavy amount of suspenseful music accompanies several scenes during the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • None.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Although we don't see anything, some nudity is implied as Mulan, who's bathing in a lagoon as a "man," embarrassedly averts her eyes when Yao stands nude above her on a rock (we don't see anything).
  • SMOKING
  • None.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Mulan's family frets after she runs away from home (and she does so to save her father's life).
  • Shang learns that his father was killed in battle.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The historical accuracy (in general) of the story.
  • That Mulan accomplished what the men couldn't do by using her brain in conjunction with her brawn.
  • VIOLENCE
  • The category receives a "heavy" rating due to mainly implied, but still deadly violence that occurs or occurred in several scenes.
  • A Hun swings his sword at a Chinese guard and then breaks a flagpole and torches the flag.
  • Some carriages crash into each other as Mulan's grandmother "blindly" crosses the street.
  • Mulan's matchmaker has her butt catch on fire as she falls onto a pile of hot coals. Later, and in anger, the matchmaker throws a tea kettle to the ground, shattering it.
  • An ancestral ghost tosses a miniature gong that hits Mushu.
  • Shan-Yu lifts a Chinese scout from the ground by the throat and pulls out his sword as if he's going to strike him, but instead throws him to the ground. As the two scouts run off to deliver Shan-Yu's warning, he states that only one person is needed to deliver the message. As we see one of his henchmen draw back on his arrow and let it fly, the screen goes black (and we assume one of the scouts is killed).
  • Mulan throws her shoe and hits her horse that's laughing at her.
  • Mulan's horse, who doesn't like Mushu, stomps down on him as he passes by.
  • Mulan slaps Mushu when he innocently states that his eyes can see straight through her armor.
  • A would-be soldier states that his tatoo will protect him, so another guy then punches him.
  • On Mushu's advice, Mulan slugs Yao and then slaps him on the butt (causing him to try to punch Mulan, but he hits another character and they then briefly struggle). A chase ensues and a bunch of men are knocked down like dominos in a line, resulting in a bigger and widespread (but not too violent) brawl.
  • During a training montage, Yao knocks down Mulan with a fighting stick, but later is struck by an arrow in his butt.
  • To save Mulan from embarrassment, Mushu bites a man on the butt.
  • Shang and his troops come across a burned out village and a far off field of many dead soldiers and civilians, the result of a violent and deadly incursion with the Huns.
  • The Huns fire arrows (plain and burning) at Shang and his troops (Shang is hit in the arm) and an explosion knocks Mulan to the ground. They fire back with explosives that injure and/or kill some of the Huns, but the rest then come thundering down a snow-covered hill toward Shang and company. There, Shan-Yu swings his sword at Mulan, slightly cutting her. An ingenious solution by Mulan, however, causes an avalanche that sweeps them away, but then also endangers her and the others as they're caught up in a "white water rapids" type of speeding avalanche.
  • Some brief fighting breaks out as Shan-Yu and his men grab the emperor. More fighting then follows outside the chamber as Shan-Yu threatens the Emperor inside with a sword. Shang and Shan-Yu then fight with punches, kicks and head butts delivered to each other.
  • Shan-Yu repeatedly swings his sword at Mulan that chops down pillars, while Mushu breathes fire and torches the Hun's pet falcon (down to the skin). After some more fighting, they fire a rocket that hits Shan-Yu and drives him into a fireworks tower that then explodes.



  • Reviewed June 15, 1998

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