MULAN Review — Fine But Not Fantastic
Critic Lisa Johnson Mandell’s Mulan review says the long awaited live action Disney film is good but not great. Still, it’s definitely worth the $30.
With all Disney’s resources of Disney, including all the bells and whistles an estimated $200 million can buy, I was expecting something a little more on the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon level. Perhaps that’s what everyone was hoping for, and precisely why director Niki Caro (Whale Rider, The Zoo Keeper’s Wife) decided to go in a different direction. Her choices made a serviceable movie, but not one that takes your breath away. In the current millieau, however, many viewers have good reason to be satisfied with serviceable.
Oh, there are some outstanding features in this adaptation of an ancient Chinese tale that relates how a young woman with astounding talent and ‘chi’ disguises herself as a male warrior and fights off the forces of evil and saves the emperor’s dynasty. The costumes are astounding, the pacing is brisk and the production design is lush.
And to Disney’s credit, this is not another movie where a parent dies in the beginning. Mulan choses to fight because she wants to, not because she has to in order to survive. She is defending the realm, her family’s honor, and her right to be who she really is. It’s a fine, message for young girls — for everyone actually. This is where the movie excels.
Where Mulan falls short is in its emotional depth. There simply isn’t much there. This is the rare Disney film which may not send its viewers reaching for a tissue. More sympathy. More emotion. More pathos. Mulan could have benefitted from them all.
I was also surprised by the action sequences. Very few of them were magical or poetic in the Ang Lee style. These battles are hard to follow, so quickly cut there is little time or space for breathless awe.
Still at a time like this, when movies of a sweeping nature are inaccessible to a large portion of the population, Mulan will do just fine. Add an extra $30 to the Disney+ subscription you bought to watch Hamilton, and your children will be entertained for weeks. There are many worse investments of time and money.