Ever find yourself confessing to liking a cartoon character? Mulan is that kind of creation, with huge, foxy eyes, jet-black hair and bigger-than-life lips dropping universal truths like a techno-enhanced genie. What a babe! With a nymphet such as this for a lead character, following Disney's newest offering, the animated feature "Mulan," is no problem at all.
Disney pushes into multi-ethnic relations with this adaptation of a 2,000-year-old Chinese legend about a girl who takes drastic measures to save her father's life. Mulan is set up by traditional society to marry and bring honor to her family, but isn't quite right for the part. Her matchmaker's lessons on bearing and suggested white body powder don't really suit this free spirit. So, after the matchmaker's humiliation by Mulan's pet cricket via a classic Disney comedy of errors, the girl is confronted with heavier matters by way of imperial mandate.
The fearsome leader of the Huns, Shan-Yu (rendered to resemble a demon in quaint, Disney ethnocentric style) has mounted an invasion of China with his army. The beloved emperor declares that one man from every family must serve in the army to defend the country. Mulan's aged dad steps forward to take his conscription notice, being the family's only male, but the courageous Mulan ain't havin' it. To protect the old man, honey cuts her hair down, puts on battle armor and takes dad's place as the intrepid battle warrior.
Joined by Mushu, a tiny ancestral servant dragon, Mulan bonds with the army while pretending to be a man and moves to protect the country. In this segment, the screenwriters' messages come through smartly, even if humor turns out as the best medium, as when Mulan tries to spit and only manages a dribble.
On the whole, "Mulan" is pretty progressive, if wacky fare for kids: a young, pretty girl saving ancient China from the barbarous Huns. The only filmic concept that struck your scribe as more schizzy would have to be the thought of Eddie Murphy in his dubbing booth, hooting it up as a psychedelic, smack-talking red dragon.
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