The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.
Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook
Running Time: 88 minutes
US Certificate: G UK Certificate: U
Country: United States
Three years after Toy Story had arrived on the big screen to change the face of feature-length animation forever, along came Mulan: one of a long line of largely unsuccessful attempts by Disney to keep their traditional 2D output alive. Vastly over-shadowed upon its release by the duelling creepy-crawlies of A Bugs Life and Antz, the film was met with a lukewarm reception by critics and audiences alike, and soon disappeared without trace. But now, thanks to the Mouse Houses promise to release each and every one of its sometimes tenuously-titled classics on DVD, Mulan is back with this all-singing, all-dancing, two-disc special edition.
Loosely based on an ancient Chinese legend, Mulan (voiced by ERs Ming-Na) is a young girl who dresses up as a bloke in order to fight for her country when Shan-Yu (Miguel Ferrer) and his Hun army stage an invasion. You see, Shan-Yu+ follows the slightly-skewed logic that, by building the Great Wall, the Chinese Emperor (Pat Mr Miyagi Morita) has actually INVITED him though to be honest Im not entirely sure that would hold up in court. Either way, youve got to feel a bit sorry for the guys neighbours.
Anyway, the long and the short of it is that Mulan, accompanied by a small red dragon called Mushu (Eddie Murphy) fools her fellow soldiers into accepting her as a fellow geezer, and goes on to battle valiantly for Emperor, country and family. Of course, to buy into it all you have to disregard the fact that she doesnt even attempt to hide her face during any of this, and would surely be instantly recognisable to all as the girlie she is. And, when the oft-shirtless Captain Li Shang (B.D. Wong) starts to take a bit of a fancy to her, theres an immediate sense of this being the famous Bob episode of Blackadder all over again.
Though nowhere near the magical, mind-blowing standard of Aladdin or The Little Mermaid, Mulan is an enjoyable enough flick for the young uns. There are some decent set-pieces, its a nice story, and anyone whos a fan of Shrek (arent we all?) is bound to also like Murphys Mushu, given that hes Donkey in all but appearance and name.
Essentially though, Mulans latest re-appearance is likely to be forgotten just as swiftly as it was the first time round. Theres the semblance of an old fashioned Disney epic in there, but somehow it all just seems a little half-hearted. The adaptation of some old legend or other, the big musical numbers and the cute-but-funny sidekick critters have all worked for them in the past, but the fact is that the old tried and tested formula just doesnt carry the same impact any more.
It's Got: The worlds ugliest concubines.
It Needs: A more convincing disguise. Would it have killed her to invest in a false beard?
DVD Extras Old man Walt seldom lets us down when it comes to extensive-but-slightly-cheesy DVD extras, and he sticks rigidly to form with this Special Edition release of Mulan. Disc 1 has deleted scenes, some interactive games & activities, fun facts, audio commentary, and an array of music videos including a pre-Dirrrrty pre-chaps Christina Aguilera singing Reflection and, brilliantly, Jackie Chan (yes, THE Jackie Chan, even though hes not generally considered a singer and has nothing else to do with the film) singing Ill Make a Man Out of You in Mandarin. Theres also the once-great-but-now-a-bit-rubbish Stevie Wonder dueting with some saccharine-squelching boy band or other on True to Your Heart. Disc 2 has even more music videos (and yes, Jackies at it again!), along with a mind-bogglingly in-depth documentary about the full process of how the film was made. DVD Extras Rating: 8/10
Talking dragon or not, the sparkles missing from this middle-ranking Disney effort.