Disney’s Mulan (1998): Honest Parent’s Review

Mulan (1998) | G | Released: 1998 | 1 hour 27 minutes | June 19, 1998

What is Disney’s Mulan all about?

Disney’s Mulan (1998) is a water-downed, not very accurate retelling of a Chinese story. In true Disney fashion, they took a traditional Chinese tale, branded it, and made it suitable for kids.

Sort of anyway. Mulan has a higher body count than any other Disney Princess movie. And Mulan is literally the only Princess with a body count.

In any case, the basic plot is simple. The Huns attack China to prove their strength. The Chinese Emperor issues a draft to meet the challenge. Despite his age, Mulan’s father accepts the honor of joining the army.

In an attempt to save her father, Mulan defies tradition, family honor, and cultural laws to dress as a man to enter the Chinese army in his place. Of course, disguising as a man is an “ultimate dishonor” and could mean her death.

Despite the violence, Mulan is not nearly as dark as the beginning of Bambi, Brother Bear, Up… should I continue? In other words, it won’t scar your child for life. If you want to do that, show them Bambi.

Things to consider when watching Disney’s Mulan (1998)

  • How much does Shang question his sexuality at the end of the movie? The only way it can really work out is if he is bisexual. Imagine the disappointment if he was gay or the utter confusion he’d have if he is actually straight.
Disney's Mulan Shang shirtless
  • How does Mulan’s horse swim through through the avalanche? Seriously, how? I can suspend disbelief the men in the army never did anything without their shirts, thus keeping Mulan’s identity a secret. But an avalanche would have pretty much killed them all.
Disney's Mulan's Horse Swimming in avalanche
  • Also, can we discuss and marvel at the fact that Mulan is the only Disney Princess with a body count? Based on 2000 drawn Huns and their 2000 horses, Mulan’s body count is 1,994 Huns (6 got out of the snow) and 2000 horses. This gives her a combined count of 3,994 bodies.
Mulan creating avalanche
  • Could they have made the Emperor’s Adviser any more stereotypical? The only thing this guy lacks are glasses and a calculator.
Disney's Mulan Emperor's Advisor

Where can I watch the movie?

Mulan is streaming on Disney+. You can subscribe to it here. If you don’t have Disney+ or don’t want more crap to sign up for, you can rent it on Google Play here.

When does the live action Mulan come out?

The live-action version of Mulan was originally set to release to theaters earlier in 2020. Due to COVID-19, it Disney decided to exclusively release the movie on Disney+ on September 4, 2020. As I understand it, in countries where Disney+ is not available, it will release to theaters.

Will Mushu be in the new Mulan?

No. For fans of the wise-cracking dragon, the news may come as a major disappointment. Live-action Mulan is going to follow much closer to the original Chinese fairy tale. It will feature more martial arts, action, and violence. It is also not a musical and the main love interest and villains have changed.

Oh, and this may be very shocking. It will also not be animated.

Is Mulan free on Disney+?

The 1998 animated version of Mulan is “free” to any Disney+ subscriber. The live-action movie is available on Disney+ starting on 9/4/20, but it will cost Disney+ subscribers about $30 extra for unlimited access to the movie. For a large family, it is a decent deal. But if you are a solo Disney fan that is an adult and, let’s face it, single because you are an adult Disney fan, its a bit of a rip off. If you don’t want to pay extra, you can wait until December 4th, when it is rumored it will be released free to all Disney+ subscribers.

Dad's Review
Overall
3
  • Binge watchability
    (1.5)
  • Song quality
    (2.5)
  • Plot
    (3.5)
  • Can watch distraction free
    (4.5)
Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)

Dad's Take

Disney’s Mulan is an overall good quality movie. It features the comedic value of Eddie Murphy, girl empowerment, and a story that is engaging (at least the first few times through it). Mulan along with Pocahontas helped set the stage for future “girl power” movies featuring strong “princesses” who don’t wait to be rescued. In fact, Mulan ends up saving the Emperor in the end and bestowing her family with honor.

In the end, Mulan may end up with Shang. He is seen visiting Mulan after it is all said and done, but there is no talk of marriage at the time. It’s possible even Disney’s writers recognized how odd it would be if they showed them together at the end. I mean, Shang spent most of the movie believing Mulan was a guy. That would be quite the reveal and disappointing to Shang if he was actually into guys and confusing as hell if he is into girls. The scene they don’t show is Shang questioning his sexuality following his experience with Mulan and coming to terms with whether or not he can reasonably date her.

Mulan represents Disney’s early attempts at diversifying their flagship movie collection. The Disney team took some time researching the Mulan legend and Chinese culture in general. They did this so they could put their Disney spin on it, water it down, and present it to the masses. But in all seriousness, if your kid is into looking up historical facts, Mulan may inspire them to do so.

Mulan has a solid musical score, but it lacks that one icon song that Disney films typically have. Probably the best song is “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” which is the Disney take on the Rocky montage where it shows Mulan start to transform into a warrior. The rest of the songs are alright but not super memorable. But this has its benefits. Having now watched Mulan more times now with my daughter than I can count, I can say the songs don’t get super annoying and my daughter did not sing any of them on loud repeat. Nor do we own (or request to own) the Mulan soundtrack (thank God).

If you are looking for a change of pace, Mulan may be a good break from whatever crap your kid is currently binging on. I doubt they will come away with any songs they set themselves on repeat for and they may get a glimpse of Disney’s interpretation of Chinese culture, which almost makes them an expert on China if you ask me.

Pros

  • Songs are decent but not likely to cause your child to sing them repeatedly
  • Story is engaging enough the first few times through the movie
  • Mulan is a strong, independent woman who is a good role model for girls (and boys)
  • You don’t feel yourself getting dumber because you are watching it

Cons

  • Story gets old after seeing it multiple times
  • It’s success inspired the creation of Mulan II

Like what you read?

If you liked what you read, which I admit is not likely, then check out these other reviews of popular movies.

Nathan

Nathan is not a published author, professional movie critic, or avid fan of most children shows. He is a caring father (when he's not banging his head against the wall), a movie connoisseur of sorts literally able to have full conversations in movie and TV quotes, and dedicated to helping other parents avoid starting a show with their small children that they will soon regret. In his free time, he does nothing. He has two small children. Free time does not exist.

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