Mulan (1998) — Sometimes it’s better not to be a man

“Oh, I think my bunny slippers just ran for cover.”

Sue’s rating: Be a man!

Sue’s review: My offspring might consider it nosiness, laziness, the hovering threat of censorship or (hopefully) quality time, but I watch a lot of television and movies with them. Sometimes it’s fun (VeggieTales), sometimes it’s educational (I learned the lyrics to La Bamba and how to do the Locomotion from a kiddie sing-along video!), it’s frequently excruciating (The Swan Princess) and sometimes it qualifies as one of the seven levels of hell (“Pika-pika-pika-choooo!”). I can only be grateful that both the urchins were beyond pre-schoolerdom when Boohbah came out. Getting hit at the tail end of toddlerhood with the Teletubbies was quite bad enough, thank you.

In any case, I have to admit that I do prefer the sort of entertainment that caters to kiddies while not entirely forgetting the poor schmuck who pays the cable bills and rental fees. So I don’t mind snuggling down on the couch with a descendent or two, a bowl of popcorn, a scavenging hound at my feet and a family friendly movie whirring merrily along in the VCR or DVD player. (Okay, I do have one major beef with the Disney folks specifically – namely their mission to kill off parents and/or siblings in just about every freakin’ movie they’ve ever made, but I’ve already ranted enough about that.)

Enter last Saturday, my kids, my dogs, the aforementioned snack food and Mulan.

Fa Mulan (Y’know the last name goes first in China, right? Yeah, I thought you did.) isn’t just a lovely young woman aiming — Eagerly! Yikes! — for a future of arranged marriage, childbirth without Demerol and family honor. She’s also apparently the Ming (or whichever) Dynasty Poster Child for Murphy’s Law. Setting that aside, life is looking pretty good at first. Her parents are doting, her horse manages to look noble and handsome even if he does have the conformation of an Idaho spud on stilts, and she’s got a dog who seems to be either a Stitch prototype or an homage to Pac-Man. But y’know, there’s this rogue “lucky” cricket and then the matchmaker catches on fire and the Huns invade China and suddenly it’s not all egg rolls and happy fortune cookies for the Fa family.

To meet the threat, (of the Huns, not the rogue cricket), the Emperor reinstates the draft, in which one man from every family must join the army… unless he’s in college, has a lot of money, knows a senator, or deserts to Canada. Mulan’s father, a veteran, is all set to answer the call, but his habit of proudly throwing aside his cane and then falling over would seem to indicate that he’s not going to be much use since trench warfare won’t be implemented until the American Civil War. (It won’t even be trendy until World War I.)

Mulan makes the decision that even though she can’t get a man, she can be a man, gives herself a really tough guy haircut (with a… uhm… bun), saddles up her potato and gallops off to boot camp under the assumed manly-man name of… Ping. Of course, the folks at home discover what she did, but cross-dressing is right up death penalty alley, so they decide not to spill the bean curd. Hmm. Now that I think about it, why didn’t she just lend the potato to her Dad? Oh. Cause then there wouldn’t be a story. Right.

Anyway, the deceased family ancestors, who apparently have their own condo on the property, decide to take action and send a family guardian to retrieve Mulan. Unfortunately, there’s a technical glitch, so Mushu (Eddie Murphy), a stunted dragon who sounds amazingly like Shrek’s Donkey (cause he is), sets out on the rescue mission… along with the rogue cricket. However, he’s sort of in the ol’ bamboo steamer himself, so instead of bringing home the prodigal girl who would be guy, Mushu decides to help Mulan become all she can be. As a man. In the army.

Chaos, epic battles and Panda-monium (*snerk*) ensue.

This is a Disney movie, and so in a lot of ways it’s predictable. You have comedy, tragedy, interesting and amusing supporting characters and bad guys with really weirdly drawn eyes. There’re also some huge climactic scenes that would have taken a major toll on the extras and stuntmen if it weren’t animated. But none of that really detracts from the movie because it’s expected from the get-go.

All in all, this is a fun movie with plenty of humor, decent music and… well, Mulan definitely looks better as a man than Dustin Hoffman looked as a woman. Can’t be bad, right? Stop by and we’ll toss it in the VCR. Just remember to bring the popcorn.

Didja notice?

  • Sing along with Donny Osmond!
  • Another parent bites the dust. Thank you, Disney!
  • Yes, the dress did make Yao look fat.
  • Writing crib notes on arms – another ancient Chinese invention.
  • Chinese horses looked like potatoes. Hun horses looked like concrete blocks. You do the math.
  • Crickets make excellent, if not lucky, pets.
  • Mulan’s timesaving chicken feeding method.
  • Chinese Gothic!

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