Disney’s Mulan: Parent’s Review

(3)

Rated: G | Released: 1998 | 87 mostly torture-free minutes

Mulan is Disneyfied history at its finest.

Disney’s Mulan’s Basic Plot

Disney’s Mulan is a water-downed retelling of a Chinese fairytale. In true Disney fashion, they took a traditional Chinese tale, branded it, and made it suitable for kids. Yes, in the 1990’s, Disney decided no traditional tale was safe from its clutches EDIT: to add much needed diversity to its princess line-up (see also Pocahontas).

In any case, the basic plot is simple. Mulan defies tradition and family honor to dress as a man to enter the Chinese army when the government drafts her elderly father. Of course, disguising as a man is an “ultimate dishonor” and could mean her death.

The movie is set during a Hun invasion. There is some violent scenes. Oddly enough, it 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. If you want to do that, show them Bambi.


Things to consider when watching Disney’s Mulan

  • 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 was straight.
Disney's Mulan Shang shirtless
  • How does Mulan’s horse swim through the snow of an 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
  • Could they have made the Emperor’s Advisor any more stereotypical? The only thing this guy lacks are glasses and a calculator.
Disney's Mulan Emperor's Advisor
  • Possible alternate plots:
Let's get down to business to defeat the Fonz! AAAAYYYY!!!!
Dad's Review
3
  • Binge watchability
    (1.5)
  • Song quality
    (2.5)
  • Plot
    (3.5)
  • Can watch distraction free
    (4.5)

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.

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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

How much will you:

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  • Feel like the moral is beating you over the head:
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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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