Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review: Mulan

Other "Disney Renaissance" films have aged better than Mulan, which I found oppressively formulaic but otherwise watchable upon my first-ever viewing of it last week. A lot of my lukewarm reaction is probably owed to Mulan just not quite getting off on the right foot. The first half-hour felt so much like a note-perfect parody of Disney movie formula that I actually made a comment to that effect to Mrs. Fraught BEFORE the butt-injury gag.

The early part of the film also establishes the songs' weakness and the too-numerous animal sidekicks, most of whom don't speak and therefore are weakly defined as characters (beyond the standard attributes of "wacky" and "fun"). Of course, since they thought it would be a good idea to give the one speaking animal role to Eddie Murphy, perhaps we should be thankful that the other animals didn't talk.

I found it difficult to avoid comparing Mulan with Pocahontas, another of the Disney Renaissance semi-historical features with certain racially touchy aspects. The best thing about Mulan is its imaginative visual style—not just the Lilo & Stitch-like animation, but the storyboarding and colors—but I can't say that even this is significantly better than that of Pocahontas, just different. And though Mulan's far less preachy, in just about every other respect, Pocahontas overshadows it—better songs, a less predictable story, minimal irritating nonsense, and the action feels more real and is therefore more exciting.

As for its ranking among the others of its kind? Well, I didn't see Tarzan—hearing a few bars of the Phil Collins song put me off it completely—but I preferred Mulan slightly to the hammier Hercules. I'm still pretty conflicted about Aladdin and I won't venture an opinion about whether Mulan represents an improvement. The others, though, definitely deserve their greater esteem.

Still, it's Disney—some bits of Mulan are genuinely funny, and the overall experience is pleasant and unforced. You could always do far, faaaar worse in the realm of family-oriented animation. I would half-heartedly recommend it to a person in the mood for a pre-Pixar Disney fix who was simultaneously sick of the more major titles of the era.

Star Score: 2 out of 5

No comments:

Post a Comment