Mulan (1998)

(In French, On Blu-Ray, June 2015) I may be late in seeing Disney blockbuster Mulan, but in other ways I was ready for it, having seen enough of the other “Disney Princess” movies to show how different Mulan is and isn’t.  The good news, and the reason to celebrate the film, is how much stuff it dares to tackle: Asian themes and setting, issues of identity, family, honor, actualization, cross-dressing, war… We’re quite a distance away from the simplistic motivations of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, here.  The animation is impressive, the level of detail is astonishing and Mulan, as a heroine, is far more rounded than most of her co-princesses.  It’s a big story well-told.  On the other hand, I found the animal comic relief to be jarring: While Mulan will agonize about family honor during one scene, the animal sidekicks will ham it up one moment later.  The film would have been stronger without them.  Still, Mulan remains a remarkable achievement – it’s not part of the Disney Renaissance for nothing. While probably a little bit too much (too violent, too complex, too specific) for the younger kids, it’s often far more interesting to adults than most Disney animated features. 

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