movie film review | chris tookey


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  Mulan Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
7.20 /10
Mulan .............. Ming-Na Wen, Mulan, singing ..... Lea Salonga
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Directed by: Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft
Written by: Rita Hsiao, Christopher Sanders, Philip LaZebnik, Raymond Singer and Eugenia Bostwick-Singer. Based on a story by Robert D. San Souci

Released: 1998
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 88

A teenage girl named Mulan (whose singing voice is that of Lea Salonga, who first came to prominence in London as the star of Miss Saigon). Mulan turns her back on an arranged marriage, dresses as a man and undergoes military training to save her aged father from having to fight the invading Huns. On the way to defeating the Hunnish hordes virtually single-handed and striking a blow for medieval feminism, she manages to find time to fall for her commanding officer (all the more remarkable since his singing voice is that of Donny Osmond).
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Try to imagine G.I. Jane with charm and a sense of humour, and you’ve grasped the notion behind Mulan. It is fast, funny and an enjoyable yarn, based on a Chinese folk tale. Lurking just below the surface are serious themes sensitively handled, about balancing family obligations with individual aspirations.

Like Saving Private Ryan, it appreciates that war brings out the best as well as worst in people; and, though there are no graphic scenes of violence to give the tinies nightmares, it does make clear that violence and warfare are not harmless fun.

Mulan is, most of all, glorious to look at. The first film to come from Disney’s Florida studio, it follows belatedly in the tradition of Bambi, skilfully combining western and eastern styles of graphic art to produce some truly breathtaking images.

The sight of Huns on horseback rampaging down the snowy slopes of a mountain is as astonishing as anything in a Kurosawa movie, and is only made possible by latest developments in computer graphics. This is probably the best-looking Disney cartoon of all time.

The songs by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel are serviceable, rather than scintillating; the villainous Huns are hardly characterised at all; and the main comic relief - Eddie Murphy striving for laughs as a jive-talking dragon - is little more than a pale echo of Robin Williams’s genie in Aladdin, and doesn’t have an awful lot to do with medieval China.

But Mulan is a success, creatively and commercially. Adults and children will be entertained; and, unlike Disney’s Pocahontas, the heroine will appeal as much to boys as girls.

The film will doubtless be depicted by some as a cynical exercise in marketing Disney merchandise to the Chinese sub-continent, and there is something disconcerting about the way Disney has subsumed other countries’ myths into its own relentlessly cheery, squeaky clean, “can do” mentality; but the results are so entertaining that you won’t catch me knocking them for it.

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