UK Release Date: 16th October 1998
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 16th April 2010.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I don’t watch many Disney films these days, I’ve probably outgrown many of them, but I took an exception in this case. It had been recommended to me and so I thought I’d give it a look when it came up on TV recently. I was pleasantly surprised, a strong story, some nice animation and a few decent songs thrown in… not too shabby. I’ll give you my more detailed thoughts after this brief summary (summary haters, and those that don’t wish to know about the plot, please go training with the army while I write the next paragraph).
Mulan is a spirited girl who, having failed to make an impression with the matchmaker, is looking for some other way of bringing honour to her family. China has been invaded by the Huns, lead by the very tough and evil, Shan Yu. An army is being raised by the Emperor and Mulan’s father, Fa Zhou, is chosen as one of the conscripts from their village, but he was injured fighting for the Emperor before. He insists he will go, but Mulan has other ideas. Stealing his armour and his sword and taking her horse, Khan, she sets off to join the army in his place, hoping she can pass herself off as a man. The penalty, if she’s discovered, is death. To help her on this quest, the family ancestors, inadvertently, send Mushu, a small dragon with ambitions to improve his position. A lucky cricket, Cri-Kee, also comes along on the adventure. The soldiers are led by Captain Li Shang, the son of a General and a very handsome man. Calling herself Ping, Mulan is befriended by three soldiers, Yao, Ling and Chien-Po, but can she pull off this charade and will she bring honour to her family? Well, you probably guessed it, I’m not going to tell you here, those Spoiler Police will be after me if I do.
I found this film surprisingly good, some great animation, a really good story and some pretty good songs along the way. The only let-down (for me) was the inclusion of the voice of Eddie Murphy as Mushu. Whenever I hear him now I think of ‘Donkey’ from the Shrek films. Don’t get me wrong, he has some great lines and does his stuff very well, but I just kept seeing ‘Donkey’ in my mind’s eye. The film started very strongly with a nice set-up and it was looking good until the ‘comic relief’ is brought in (‘Donkey’). It’s then a struggle for the narrative, which is very good by the way, to fight its way past the comic japes of ‘Donkey’. Fortunately, it does and we end up with a pretty good film that’s entertaining, funny (thanks ‘Donkey’) and, at times, quite dramatic.
Decent performances all round, Ming-Na did a good job as the voice of Mulan, ably backed up by Lea Salonga who did the singing parts for the character. B.D. Wong did a nice job as Li Shang with Donny Osmond doing the singing parts. The voice that really stood out (for me… apart from ‘Donkey’) though was Miguel Ferrer as the voice of the evil Shan-Yu, he was really menacing and made you believe in the character. Honourable mentions go to the voices of; Harvey Fierstein as Yao, Gedde Watanabe as Ling and Jerry Tondo as Chien-Po. I would also like to mention George Takei who had a nice little cameo as the voice of the First Ancestor.
Over all a pretty enjoyable film with lots to admire. The animation of the scene where the Huns are attacking down a snow-covered hill is quite spectacular. Would I watch it again? Yes, I didn’t find ‘Donkey’ all that bad at the end of the day, and, who knows? I may even see him as a small Chinese dragon one day… Recommended.
My Score 7.3/10