Movie Review: Mulan

The Disney films of the 90’s. Now there’s a dynasty worth talking about.

A few years ago, I was scrolling through the TV channels, looking for something to watch. I got to ABC Family and there was Aladdin. I skipped to the next channel and then went back. Aladdin was probably my favorite film as a youngster. I watched it for a while before I had to do homework and you know what? I didn’t feel embarrassed for doing so.

Disney World continues to be a popular tourist attraction for kids all over the world today and it’s because Disney knows what kids want: relatable characters, simple plots and an inspirational musical score. Truthfully, Disney doesn’t churn out the same animated legends they used to, but they still make movies for the little ones. Last year’s Frozen made over $1.25 billion, the fifth-highest grossing of all-time. Was that film held to the standards of the 90’s? Certainly not, but it reminded us all of the good old days when we were young, still retained some childhood naivety and had that creative childhood imagination our parents used to wonder over.

When I’m asked what was the best decades for movies, I have to say the 90’s. The dramas that came out during the decade were some of the best ever, but what really makes me tip my hat to the 90’s is Disney’s theatrics. The animated films demonstrated not only a new element to film-making, but a recipe for childhood lore. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Toy Story, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, A Bug’s Life, Tarzan, and Toy Story 2 all came out during that decade, a truly astounding feat.

What probably made it all the more impressive was that they sold us basically the same story time and time again, yet made the characters their own person. Self-image was a continual theme in these films. Believing in yourself, making your family and friends proud, these were all things that could be said about many of these films, yet no critic in his or her right mind would dare to call any of these films bland, unoriginal or a blight on film-making. They’re all great and they all found their own niche, even if they were niches right next to their counterparts.

I loved Mulan as a kid and still do now. A girl who wants to honor her family, Mulan doesn’t seem to get things right. She means well but things don’t pan out. She’s not afraid to speak her mind. She’s instinctive and persevering. It’s a drawing that exhibits children fairly well. They’re excited to step into the world, accept more responsibility and find out what life’s all about. That’s what this film does as it takes us on her adventure in the army, where she makes new friends and learns values.

The voice-acting is all done very well, most-notably by Eddie Murphy. His sideshow vocals as Mushu the dragon kept the story’s comedy and lightheartedness alive. The score is fantastic and I loved every second of it. As someone who hates musicals, Disney knew how to make one. Most musicals I watch end up making the music the focal point rather than the accompaniment it’s supposed to be. Disney never made that mistake.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Guardians of the GalaxyDawn of the Planet of the ApesTransformers: Age of ExtinctionJack ReacherGodzilla)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2Young Guns)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too.(When the Game Stands TallBlack Hawk DownRed Dawn(2012)MaleficentRise of the Planet of the Apes)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (RubberHansel and Gretel: Witch HuntersAnchorman: The Legend of Ron BurgundyThe TransporterSpeed)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Expendable 3HomefrontG.I. Joe: RetaliationVantage PointThe Starving Games)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBilly MadisonA Haunted House300: Rise of an EmpireCowboys and Aliens)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The GreyX-Men: Days of Future PastThor: The Dark WorldThe Sum of All Fears)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (GallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. EvilSafeWatchmenClash of the Titans)

My score for Mulan: 92.

It’s not my favorite Disney film, but as a product of the 90’s, Mulan earns its rightful place in the 90’s without question. Easily one of the best kids films of all-time and whether you’re its intended audience or you’re going on 21, you still have to smile as it warms your heart.

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