(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Mulan. The song "Reflection" plays throughout)
Doug (vo): Mulan, when it first came out, was a modest hit. Critics seemed to like it okay and audiences seemed to like it okay, and even today, that seems to be the general consensus. People seemed to like it okay. And, yeah, I guess I’m on the same boat, but I think I like it and dislike it for different reasons everybody else does. What’s the story?
Doug (vo): A long time ago in China, we have the Huns invading, so an army has to be put together, and one male from every house has to go and fight. The only problem is, the father of a teenage girl named Mulan is too old and too sick to fight. So she disguises herself as a boy and goes to fight for him. She’s accompanied by a Chinese dragon, played by Eddie Murphy. Yeah, wasn’t that fitting casting? And while she has a hard time fitting in, she does eventually win over the crowd, never letting on to her secret.
Doug (vo): Okay, so what do people in general really like about this movie? Well, they liked the girl power aspect, they liked the fact that such a strong female lead, that she goes out, she flings a sword, she fights her battle, she does all this good stuff. And that’d be great if she was a little bit more interesting. I don’t want to say she’s a bore because she’s not totally forgettable, but, again, I just feel like I’ve seen this character before. She’s the free spirit that everybody tells should be one thing, but she wants to be something else. She can’t do the one thing that everybody tells her to do, so she wants to go into something unconventional. And wouldn’t you know it? That unconventional thing changes everybody’s perception. Again, not a bad moral, I’ve just seen it, and her character seems much more tied to the moral than it does an actual character. What pulls her through are the scenes when she’s trying to be a boy, but we’ll get to that in a second.
[Eddie Murphy's character, Mushu the dragon, is shown in several clips]
Doug (vo): People like Eddie Murphy as Mushu...I don’t. He seemed really out of place, I didn’t laugh that much at him, and, I don’t know. I didn’t see a character, I just saw Eddie Murphy doing the voice of a cartoon. In something like Shrek, it makes a little bit more sense. This is just the kind of world it is. In Chinese history, this doesn’t seem to fly very well. Though, to be fair, he does get a good line every once in a while.
Mushu: There are a couple of things I KNOW they're bound to notice!
Doug (vo): People like the Chinese culture. I think it’s kind of underplayed. Again, it’s kind of like Hercules. Just when you think Disney animation is going to tackle this, you get really excited at what they can do. And aside from a few backgrounds and one or two designs, it’s pretty glanced over. I guess Chinese art in many ways does celebrate the white space, but I think there’s a better way to show it off. There’s a lot of great Chinese art and I like to see it explored more.
[The film's villain, Shan-Yu, the Hun leader, is shown in several clips]
Doug (vo): And then, of course, you have the villain. I’m not sure if people like this guy or not, but in my opinion, I think he is the most forgettable villain ever put in Disney. I don’t remember a thing about this guy. His design is boring, his dialogue is boring, what he does is boring. This is a fierce warrior who burns down villages, and yet, I can’t remember one line out of him. The only thing I remember is that the color in his eyes was reversed, which I...didn’t really get. There’s black where the white should be and yellow where the black should be, I don’t know. If that’s the most memorable thing about him, that’s probably not a good sign.
[The film's Chinese ancestors are shown in several clips]
Doug (vo): Also, I don’t like the fact that the ancient Chinese ancestors, again, giving some kids some real culture into this history, is done more like a meeting at the old folks' home. I mean, I know it was supposed to be played for laughs, but I just didn’t find it that funny. Again, when you think Disney animation and Chinese ghosts, you think of something really spectacular. But this just sort of seems like a throwaway.
[Several more of the film's comedic scenes are shown]
Doug (vo): Bitch and moan, bitch and moan. What do I like about this movie? Honestly, I liked the comedy. I know it sounds weird seeing how I just bashed Eddie Murphy and the ancestor ghost people, but I like everything else. I like the side characters, I like this army, I like how they poked fun of gender roles, I like her attempts at trying to fit in, I like everybody trying to act tough but failing miserably. For me, the side characters is what makes this movie, particularly the army themselves. I love these guys; I love the guy who’s prone to anger, I love the one who’s kind of a pacifist, I love the other one who’s kind of a show-off, I love the pencil-pusher that everybody makes fun of. And like I said, when Mulan tries to blend in, it’s really hilarious. I actually think there’s a lot of subtlety to this humor, too. Like, have you ever noticed when the one guy who wanted to shake hands, she accidentally hands it to him like she’s expecting him to kiss it? That’s really kind of subtle. Plus, the comedic expressions are great and just how quick they are.
Mulan: [Speaking in a manly voice] Oh, hi, guys. I didn't know you were here. I was just washing, so now I'm clean, and I'm gonna go. Bye-bye.
Doug (vo): Though at times, I have to admit, some of the gender issues get a little too weird, like when all the guys are whistling to the women in the fields and then Mulan tries to cover her face while they laugh. I don’t know, is that a little too odd? Maybe I’m just over-reading it. For the most part, they’re played pretty funny. But again, it’s not just the comedy that makes me enjoy it, it’s the army in general. I like the comradery, I like the individuals, I like that they try to work with one another, I like how they anger each other, I like that they make each other laugh. And I like Mulan trying to blend in with them. For me, that’s where the heart of the movie is.
Doug (vo): So, like I said before, I think it’s okay. It’s certainly not one of the stronger Disney films and I think it certainly could’ve been a lot more, but for what it is, it’s got some good scenes. I remember liking it enough that I did sit down to watch it again, which is more than I can say for some of the other Disney films I think are really okay. So, in my opinion, it’s worth at least one viewing. I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of culture, but I would expect just the right amount of entertainment.
[The ending of the film's song "Reflection" is shown]
Mulan: [Singing] When will my reflection show who I am inside?