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Movie Review

Mulan

Reviewed by: Kyle Suggs
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
All Ages
Genre:
Animation Adventure Music Family
Length:
1 hr. 28 min.
Year of Release:
1998
USA Release:
June 19, 1998 (wide)
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures click photos to ENLARGE
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures
Dragons

dragons and dinosaurs—discover how they are connected

dragons in the Bible


coming of age

sexism

girl disguised as boy

honesty: truth versus lies


friendship

public humiliation

father daughter relationship


honor

bravery / courage

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer


training for battle

army life

swords in the Bible

Occult

Chinese mysticism and spiritism / ancestor worship

idolatry

magic

luck


matchmakers

Featuring: Ming-Na WenMulan (voice)
Eddie MurphyMushu (voice)
Miguel Ferrer … Shan-Yu (voice)
Pat Morita … The Emperor (voice)
Harvey Fierstein … Yao (voice)
Freda Foh Shen … Fa Li (voice)
June Foray … Grandmother Fa (voice)
James Hong … Chi Fu (voice)
Miriam Margolyes … The Matchmaker (voice)
Marni Nixon … Grandmother Fa (singing voice)
Soon-Tek Oh … Fa Zhou (voice)
Donny Osmond … Shang (singing voice)
Lea Salonga … Mulan (singing voice)
James Shigeta … General Li (voice)
George Takei … First Ancestor (voice)
more »
Director: Tony Bancroft
Barry Cook
Producer: Walt Disney Feature Animation
Walt Disney Pictures
more »
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures

“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”

Copyrighted, Buena Vista Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures

Could it be? Could Disney’s multi-decade strong hold on animated feature films be in jeopardy? This would have seemed impossible a few years back during the reign of “The Lion King.” However, “Pocahontas,” “Hunchback,” and “Hercules” did not fare very well at the box office and opened the door for other studios (Columbia—“Swan Princess”, Fox—“Anastasia,” Warner—“Quest for Camelot”) to play catch up.

Well, let me put all fears aside. “Mulan” is Disney’s latest animated installment, and it is an instant classic. “Mulan” is based on a Chinese folktale about a young woman who, after the country of China is in danger of take over by a Hun invasion, disguises herself as a male to enter into the Chinese army. She does this in part to save her ailing father but also to bring TRUE honor to herself and the Fu family.

Mulan Fu (Ming-Na Wen) is a different kind of Disney heroine. Not only is she very charming and personable but she is very smart and very brave. She is assisted by Mushu (Eddie Murphy), a 2 foot disenfranchised dragon, who is appointed by her ancestors to bring Mulan back home safely. Children will absolutely love this show-stealing character. Murphy is tremendously funny in this role.

A lot of things go right in “Mulan”. For starters, the animation is a notch better than anything I have seen from Disney. Some scenes are sheerly breathtaking! Secondly, the music and songs are well done and are not overbearing. Thirdly, “Mulan” is fun. With memorable supporting characters (including a scary villain), humor, gags, and one-liners, this film grabs your attention from the very beginning and does not let go until its heart stopping finale.

After watching “Mulan”, parents should be prepared to explain to their children about Chinese religion and spiritual thought. The Ancestors are deceased members of the Fu family that, in a ghost-like form, still have very real connections with the living world. In fact, Mulan’s father prays to them. The Bible rejects this belief system (Exodus 20:3; Hebrews 9:27).

Disney has taken animated filmmaking to another level and in turn increased the once narrow gap between itself and every one else.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Surprisingly adult material for a kid’s movie. Can’t children be children anymore? I mean, if I were 5 years old, the only thing I’d remember about “Mulan” is the funny little dragon (maybe some nightmares about the evil Hun), and nothing more than that. Excellent piece of story telling, but best appreciated by adults.
—Brian, age 25
“Mulan” overall is a much better film than the last 3. The animation was very good (one scene-the huns attacking—is breathtaking). Lots of action in this film. One thing that stood out in this film that the others were lacking is lots of humor. I actually laughed a lot during the film. Christians should be aware, though, of the chinese spiritualism. The characters pray to ancestors and guardians. These are point blank demons, and parents should be aware that Mushu is a demon, not an animal out of the forest, such as the cricket. Parents should make this known to the children, and that God is the one we should pray to, and His angels guard us (Ps. 91).

One thing I found lacking a little is the music numbers. There was no big number that really stood out here as in the other films. Mulan is the strongest female character since Belle. She is independent and spirited which boarders on disobedience, but she is doing all this to help her family and get honor. If you don’t want to go and see this movie, you could just rent it thereby bypassing Disney. I recommend doing that, because it is a good film.
—Rachele, age 23
One problem I have with the story is Mulan’s disobedience. Although she is trying to bring “honor” to herself and her family and spare her father’s life, she does it by stealing from her father, running away from home and breaking the law. And when she returns from “saving China,” she shows no repentance, and her father has no words of reprimand for her. This idea that children can make better decisions than their elders has gotten way out of hand. And for parents of younger kids, be aware that there is a scene where an avalanche buries the entire Hun army, and one scene where the “ancestors” play volleyball with a severed head, both scenes made my stomach turn.
—Beverly Nault, age 42
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Despite obvious conflicts concerning Chinese beliefs and Christian doctrine, I found this movie to be very entertaining. I wanted to comment regarding someone else’s review, in which the person seemed angry that Mulan had been disobedient to her father, and yet, upon her return Mulan’s father did not have any harsh words for her. —isn’t that just like the father in Luke 15:11-31, who celebrated the return of his “lost son.”

It is important to be aware of and to avoid those things that will lead us astray in our walk with Christ “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them”—Ephesians 5:11, but don’t forget God’s command for us to love one another… (as Mulan’s father demonstrates by his unconditional and heartfelt welcome of Mulan).

I recommend this movie for an afternoon of clean humor…, but I agree that you should be prepared to explain the differences in the Chinese belief system and Christianity. For those of you who aren’t prepared to do that, wait for “The Prince of Egypt” (about Moses) which comes out in December ’98.
—Susan, age 27
…I am a Christian man who happens to be married to a Chinese woman, and I have a beautiful 4½ year old daughter who is being raised a Christian. The line in the movie about traditional values is not about cross-dressing, it is about the role of the woman in the Chinese family structure… The reason Mulan dressed as a man was not to deceive people in order to change their perception of her sexual orientation or to make a political statement, it was in order to save her fathers life
—Tim Wilson
As an Asian-American, I was impressed with the fact that “Mulan” both depicted Chinese culture accurately regarding customs of family honor and ancestor worship. As a Christian, I understand the dangers of spiritism, but the movie should help many American Christians understand at least a little bit of how Chinese popular religion is practiced even today, which is useful knowledge for cross-cultural ministry.

Furthermore, I think Mulan’s character is actually more honorable and moral than many of Disney’s other heroines; Ariel and Jasmine were disobedient to their fathers not for good reason, but because of their own reckless desires for adventure and romance. Mulan’s “disobedience” of her father is completely different; she takes her father’s place to preserve her family’s honor and to save her father from injury. (In fact, Christians might even see here an allusion to the substitutionary work of Christ.) I am also glad that romance was a very limited subplot in this movie, in contrast to other movies where the goal of the plot was to find Prince Charming. Christians can rightly applaud the themes that some things are more important than getting married. Overall, a solid movie. Two thumbs up.
—Al Hsu, age 25
I enjoyed “Mulan” and was happy to have my children see it. The chinese religion of the time was treated with great dignity and care. Seeing a movie that showed a loving family, a girl of good character and the importance of her religion in her life and the lives of those around her was very impressive. It would please me immensely to see a similar treatment of a Christian character and the importance of his or her religion and its effect on their life. I had no problem explaining to my children that Christ had not been revealed to the people of China at that time.

I am frustrated that Disney is able to properly show Mulan praying as she would have prayed but stripped Pocahontas of her Christianity. However, seeing them show that spirituality, even when misguided, is an important part of people’s lives is a step in the right direction. Perhaps, if instead of a boycott, the Christian community sent suggestions to them of Christian heroes and heroines who might translate well into a cartoon epic… St Joan? St Patrick?… They are more likely to do something to please us, if we give them some hints how to do it.
—Susanne Allen, age 32
I thought “Mulan” was a wonderful heart touching film . I could identify with Mulan’s feelings of being different and having to make difficult choices. Many women who are not the typical American girl can identify with her. I was glad there was a Mom and a loving father in this film. Mulan wasn’t sexy looking like Pocahontas or other disney characters. She was a young innocent woman who had good character. She also showed us not to give up when the going gets tough and to persevere in life. Love come when she wasn’t looking. Doesn’t God bless us when we are seeking His will and not a man?

I liked the movie, except for the ancestral worship and the remarks about cross dressing and drag show. I don’t think they needed to put the comments about cross dressing in the movie but with Disney’s popularity with the gay population they probably did it to please them also think the animators who are gay did it for a reason that they want us to accept it as normal.

My husband and I explained to our children about ancestral worship and what we believe as Chinese American born again Christians. I know many Asian American Christians will go see the movie because it is the first time that Disney has used so many Asian American actors and actresses. In the entertainment field, it is very difficult for the asian americans to get good parts. The parts they play are usually very stereotyped.
—Lisa Chin, age 43
My aunt took my seven year old cousin and me to see “Mulan” a few days ago. I think this was the best Disney film since The Lion King but my review is mixed. The animation was superb and for once the movie was actually humorous. My cousin loved every minute of the movie and laughed so hard I know her stomach must have hurt.

However, I am always very wary when it comes to Disney. I found the scenes where the ghost-like ancestors appear and the scene in which Mulan’s father prays to them very uncomfortable. I also did not appreciate the “gay” comments and other negative issues brought up in the film. My advice to parents would be to take their children to see the movie if they feel they should. Be prepared to explain to them that people who lived in Mulan’s time and place did not know Jesus as their Savior and prayed to their ancestors. Reinforce the fact that now we know we are children of a loving God and we are to pray to only Him and that He will answer our prayers.
—Jamie, age 24
The most controversial thing about “Mulan” will not be anything in the movie, but rather who made it. This is a Disney picture. So either you are committed to boycotting it or are wondering “Should I see it? Has Disney got the message yet?” The short answer is “yes” and “yes.” Artistically, the movie is terrific. The animation is based lightly on Chinese drawing and the latest computer graphics techniques will make some scenes famous in animation history. Mulan is so believable that a cartoon character is better than some human actresses…

From a Christian point of view, there is a lot here. Courage, loyalty, patriotism and devotion to family permeate the film. Mulan is a misfit but she is not a rebel against traditional values. She is strong and independent but in no way a feminist. She is shown to be a religious girl.

There is no extreme violence even for a war, and in the two instances where a character is killed, it does not show it. There is no hint of sex and romance does not even appear until the last scene. On the downside, the dragon parodies an evangelical preacher in one scene. He does say a crude word for “bottom” which though not obscene, is offensive. And since this is Disney, several gay jokes are present though they are mostly “in-jokes” that the “straight” audience is intended to miss. There are ancestor spirits present (the religion of China at the time), with a touch of magic thrown in, but they appear as a comic backdrop for the dragon, and cannot be taken seriously. Some scenes may still frighten the youngest viewers.

This is Disney’s mostly successful turnaround effort and a fine picture for daughters to see. Most Christians would not object having a “Mulan” in the family.
—Gary Martin, age 52
…The first issue Christians will need to address here is whether or not they want to patronize Disney Studios. If they decide they want to see this movie, there are two issues to be aware of: traditional Chinese ancestor worship and the “issues” of gender and gay references. Poor Mulan is too klutzy to impress the Matchmaker. She speaks when a good Chinese girl should be silent. She offers solutions when only the men should take charge. Her family curses her by saying she will never bring her family honor. So when the Huns invade and each family is required by law to have one man volunteer for service in the army, she decides to try one more time to be herself and do something “right” in the eyes of her family.

“If I were to be myself, I would break my family’s heart,” she tells herself. Stealing her fathers armor, she cuts her hair, offers a prayer and incense to the family ancestors, and takes the family horse “Khan” to join the army, all along trying to “act manly”… The ancestors, after a heated discussion about what to do, provide two of the most disturbing lines in the movie, which are totally out of place, in my opinion. Though it is made clear to the audience Mulan is not acting out of any desire to “be” a man, just dressing like one in order to protect her fathers life, the ancestors discuss how “traditional values will disintegrate” by Mulan’s actions and that “your granddaughter has chosen to be a cross-dresser.” Mushu the dragon is sent out with the comment, “lets get this drag show on the road.” These comments stick out like a sore thumb. Can’t Disney just tell a story, without adding lines traditionally associated with gays? more »
—Stephanie Hanson, age 40
…I would like to discuss the fact that the reviewer of “Mulan” was mistaken. Her name is Fa Mulan. In Chinese culture, the last name comes first, and when speaking of Mulan, that aspect must be respected. …as my personal relationship with God has developed, I realized that we must love all people no matter what their beliefs. …judging others, whether they are Disney or Chinese, is the downfall of our relationships with God.
—Stacy, age 22
Positive
Positive—I think “Mulan” is an OKAY Disney movie. As for the comments about the ancestor worship, I understand why people would be offended about this, and it is idolatry. However, it’s only depicted for about 5 minutes of the whole movie, and anyone who is saved will know that only God can hear our pleas and make us strong. The violence is a bit intense, but it is “Good vs. Evil,” not “violence for the sport of it”. As for someone calling Mushu “Satan,” some Christian creationist Web sites have proved that dragons were what we call dinosaurs today. Furthermore, the Revelations verse is merely comparing the devil to a dragon. I also do not get where the “feminist” accusation comes in; was Deborah a feminist in Judges? No, she was not.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Peter, age 22 (USA)
Positive—We do not boycott Disney, but originally intended to not see “Mulan” at the theatre, because it didn’t seem like a story that would appeal to my two little girls (2½ and 6) whose Disney play revolves around princesses and princes. I was also worried that the story would revolve around a political statement of how girls are certainly just as tough as men and really no different and should therefore be allowed to fight in wars.

However, after reading a great review from another Christian reviewer, we decided to see it Saturday. We still thought it wouldn’t be a favorite of our children’s (or of mine). In fact, my 6 year-old, when picking out a small Mulan figurine at the store asked where the prince was. Boy were we wrong! This movie is great! My 6 year-old couldn’t stop smiling after it was over. Even the 2½ year-old loved it. (I would imagine that some small children would be scared during a few parts of the movie. You have to be sure you know how your child reacts to things.) more »
—Amy Kelly, age 26
Positive—As a Christian myself, it is heartbreaking to see my fellow Christians dismiss works simply based on their cultural settings. I see many Christians denouncing “Mulan,” because of ancestor-worship, or supernatural powers, or magic, and, I must say, I simply don’t understand the logic behind this. I think even the tiny dragon was seen as a symbol of sin and evil. These are common themes in fiction and creative works, and they are called “fiction” for a reason: they are not true. What most resonates with our soul and warm our hearts in age-old fantasy fiction are not their superficial magical settings, but the messages they carry. Messages like love, sacrifice, faith, perseverance, courage and hope. These are precisely what I would hope my child would learn.

Are Christian parents afraid their kids will, I don’t know, start believing in magical creatures, or ghosts, or spells, or dragons just because they saw it on TV? That usually doesn’t happen. At least a decade ago, no matter how much I waved my chopstick-wand around, I knew Harry Potter magic doesn’t exist. But love does. And Righteousness, too. And I want to be those things. I think we ought to have more faith in our children and God. We need not shield them from the “Secular World,” because God protects them, and they will hear Him in the midst of all the chaos in the world. They have the right to experience wholly the world God gave them in its entirety, not have us censure and shield them just so they will not fall or err. Because eventually they will have to plunge into the world, and I would rather they learn early on how to make choices, how to fall and how to stand up again. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Alexis, age 23 (China)
Negative
I think it is important for Christians and others to know that Disney’s “Mulan” film is historically inaccurate. In the actual Song Dynasty poem, written between between 960 and 1279 AD, Mulan basically follows the Christian values of 1) Honor thy father and mother. She does not run away from home. In fact, that is one of the reasons her story has lasted so long in China. She represents filial piety.

2) There was no ancestor worship. Neither Mulan nor her father prays to ancestors before she goes off to war. She also fights without the aid of ghosts. Because of her love of family and country, she, by herself, sacrifices 10 years of her life to fight for China.

3) There was no boyfriend in the original story. As a Christian, if you are avoiding Disney and seeking more accurate information on “Mulan”, look for the following books a) The Legend of Mu Lan: A Heroine of Ancient China available at www.HeroinesinHistory.com, b) The Ballad of Mulan by Song Nan Zhang available through Amazon.com) check out “Mulan FAQ” on the internet also. These will give you and your children accurate “Mulan” information without sacrificing Christian values.
—Eileen Hu, age 35
Disney’s social agenda at work
Not unless your really bored should you see this movie. It has many references to magic and idolatry. My 7 year old nephew was bored and so was I. It seems Disney is determined to find a vehicle to push its Secular world views mixed with spiritualism and feminism. It didn’t work this time. Don’t waste your money, go see “Parent Trap,” it’s better.
—Mike McCann, age 46
beware—the Dragon!
It seems that most kids who watch “Mulan” are very fascinated by the dragon in the movie. They find it to be very funny, cute and “clean.” From entertainment perspective it makes the movie very funny and enjoyable. It portrays the dragon to be a harmless and fun loving creature. In my opinion, this is where I would like to caution Christian viewers of not falling into deception the movie portrays about dragon. The Bible as stated in Revelation 20:1, clearly depict the dragon as closely associated to the Beast who is Satan himself. In the Chinese culture the dragon is a highly exalted creature which symbolizes power and authority, just to name a couple of meanings, but in the Bible it is a anti-Christ creature. So, Christian parents, be sure to explain the Biblical view of the dragon to your children just as you go over the abomination of ancestral worship as found in the Bible. Deception is the key word!
—Paul A. Tan
a deception not appropriate for Christian viewing
I am amazed at how Christians can rationalize just about anything. My husband and I went to see “Mulan”, and ended up walking out during the first 3rd of the movie. It is inappropriate for Christians to view ghosts appearing. I understand that the Chinese in the time period believed in praying to the ancestors. This is historically correct and appropriate to the story. However, Disney did not need to depict these ancestors coming to life. I do not believe that the Chinese experience this on a regular basis. According to the Bible, when people die, they are in a sleep. (see Jesus’ comments regarding John the Baptist as well as verses such as Eccl. 9:5 “the living know that they shall die, but the dead no not anything.”)

When Christ comes again those who have died will then live and be raised up to meet him (see Revelation).

The only example of this type of thing happening that we have is when a devil impersonated the prophet Samuel in the story of Saul and the witch of Endor. This type of witchcraft was strictly forbidden by God, as recorded in Deuteronomy. This is a great deception by the devil and is not appropriate for Christian viewing. The devil would have us believe the lie he told in the very beginning that “you shall not surely die”—believing that we go on living in some spirit world. No matter how well-made, or well-told the story of Mulan is, it is more important to be true to the Bible in what we are viewing. “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” —Philippians 4:8.
—Lynelle Ellis, age 30
In response to the above:
I have not seen “Mulan,” not do I plan to, but I did want to respond to Lynelle Ellis' comments about Chinese religions. She said that modern Chinese do not experience ghosts visibly appearing as is shown in the movie. I have lived in Taiwan for six years and can state that in the midst of technology and prosperity, the fear of the ancestors (ghosts) is alive and well. The young people are losing faith (or fear) but offerings are still made twice a month and on special holidays. At funerals, the demons are called out to take the dead one home (I don’t really understand all of those traditions). Christians are oppressed and attacked by demons, especially young Christians. Ghosts are not cute or harmless. They are demons and they are still a powerful force in Chinese culture today. To me, that makes this more serious of a concern than most of your reviewers do.
—Stephen Goodenw, age 28
“promotes Chinese mysticism”
I think this movie promotes Chinese mysticism and spiritism by presenting it as an acceptable form of religion and the belief system of the heroine and her family. This movie is another subtle and nefarious attempt to undermine traditional Judeo-Christian values by indoctrinating our children into the concepts of New Age and the occult. Come on Christians, wake up! Don’t you wonder why Disney doesn’t make a movie like “Mulan” with a Christian theme? Since the U.S.A. was and supposedly still is a Christian nation, wouldn’t it make good business sense to make a Christian movie? Of course it would. But as much as Disney loves profits they loath Christianity and traditional American values even more. Avoid this movie and give your children Christian videos instead!
—David J., age 38
Comments from young people
When I first walked into the movie theatre, I thought it would be boring like “Pocahontas,” boy was I wrong. I think that “Mulan” was a cute, well done movie. I liked the fact that it didn’t have as much singing as other Disney movies and there was a lot happening in that hour and 45 minutes. Eddie Murphy did a wonderful job and kept me laughing throughout the whole movie. I wouldn’t recommend this movie for younger kids because If I was 5-6 years old, I would probably be scared by some of the parts (Shan-yu, the part where the soldier was shot with the arrow, and the avalanche) but it would be a great movie for older children, teens, and adults.
—Traci, age 15
“Mulan” is one of Disney’s best movies of all time after “The Little Mermaid”… It was very fun and exciting to watch. I love the movie “Mulan.” The dragon guy was really cute, and I love how he made the movie a whole lot more fun! Eddie Murphy did a very good job! The movie, “Mulan”, taught a lot of good morals such as honor, pride, honesty, and more. I do not agree with the part where the ancestors were prayed to. I am a Christian, and I know that praying to the ancestors does no one any good. It also is breaking the 2nd of the Ten Commandments. “Though shall not have any other Gods before me.”
—Rebekah, age 12
Me and my mother went to see “Mulan” together. I think Mulan is a perfect heroine (according to the Christian culture). But one detail that I have to disagree with… Mulan’s father worships his ancestors! I say Mulan represents Christ on the cross, Mulan put her life on the hook for others. My 6-year-old sister would be totally scared to death. Finally Disney put Eddie Murphy in clean role. The villain went a little over the edge, especially when he and his troops, after a avalanche, pop out of the snow.
—Kristin Nicholson, age 9

Sorry, no other viewer comments received yet. If you have seen this movie, PLEASE share your observations and insights with others to be posted here. GO