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Mulan (1998)

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 88 minutes

US Certificate: G UK Certificate: U


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 Bug’s 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 House’s 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 ‘ER’s 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 I’m not entirely sure that would hold up in court. Either way, you’ve got to feel a bit sorry for the guy’s 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 doesn’t 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, there’s 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, it’s a nice story, and anyone who’s a fan of Shrek (aren’t we all?) is bound to also like Murphy’s Mushu, given that he’s Donkey in all but appearance and name.

Essentially though, ‘Mulan’s latest re-appearance is likely to be forgotten just as swiftly as it was the first time round. There’s 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 doesn’t carry the same impact any more.

It's Got: The world’s 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 he’s not generally considered a singer and has nothing else to do with the film) singing ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ in Mandarin. There’s 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, Jackie’s 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 sparkle’s missing from this middle-ranking Disney effort.