Mulan (1998)


I’ve always found Mulan to be a very charming movie. It’s not perfect, and Eddie Murphy as Mushu has always stuck out as a little jarring when I’ve watched the movie recently, but it’s definitely charming.

Mulan is a really fascinating movie to watch from the perspective of gender norms. You often hear media talk of which Disney princesses are “feminist figures,” and Mulan has always struck me as the most obvious example. Like many modern Disney princesses, she takes personal agency — but, like few, her mission has nothing to do with falling in love. (That’s just a convenient side effect.)

But if it wasn’t for the great sense of humor and adventure, Mulan wouldn’t work. And Mulan has these in spades: Mulan goes through a gauntlet of obstacles and turmoil, from her doomed encounter with the matchmaker, to her training, to her battle with the Huns, to her final victory over Shan Yu, Disney packs a long quest and a lot of self-discovery into 90 minutes. And the script is really funny, too; Mushu has plenty of great moments, and Mulan’s “don’t-give-a-f***” grandmother is even better.

It’s not quite the peaks of Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast — the Chinese New Year climax lacks the impact of the rest of the movie, in my opinion — but it’s an exciting and extremely entertaining film packed with great music, characters, and story. And if I ever have a daughter, this’ll be one of the first Disney movies I show her.

Verdict: Properly Rated

Dan’s Favorite Moment: “The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter”


“Funny, exciting [and] entertaining” doesn’t quite have the same ring as enchanting, magical, and timeless. Neither does Mulan. Mulan is like a clay pot. Sturdy, reliable, durable, and tested, but lacking shine. You know Mulan will entertain, but fail to amaze. I’m giving my wife a glass vase.

Although many people who claim they are acute to story like to classify Mulan as underrated, these same people seem to give a pass on the flawed ending in which Mulan is basically doomed to a life as Shang’s house-wife. I’m not too agitated by this mainly because I think Mulan will divorce him if things don’t work out.

Mulan’s real strength lies in its main character and slapstick humor. Mulan’s character growth is interesting and feels natural. I love Mulan’s three buddies, and “A Girl Worth Fighting For” is as funny as Disney songs get, second to only “Gaston.”

And as shallow as I’m going to sound for saying this, I just wished Mulan looked better (barring the avalanche scene). Mulan herself looks flat and I rarely find myself admiring any of the backgrounds. There’s a real gem in “Reflection” which got unjustly shortened, revealing where Disney wanted to go with this production–less drama, more jokes. The now-shaky Disney studio just didn’t have the confidence to take Mulan more seriously.

Verdict: Properly Rated

Kevin’s Favorite Moment: Mulan retrieves an arrow from a pole in “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”

Final Grade: B (84%)—Mulan is a unique Disney princess that makes this one worth watching.

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5 Replies to “Mulan (1998)”

  1. Mulan herself is a terrific character, akin to Shakespeare’s Viola from ‘Twelfth Night’, a shrinking violet (hence Viola) who finds confidence and strength through a disguise. But Mulan goes further than that by defeating a whole army of Huns. Impressive. It is such a pity that the film does not look more beautiful, as it really could have been something spectacular looking, but instead it’s dull backgrounds and flat (looking, not acting) characters.

    1. Thanks for commenting thedisneyodyssey. I have been following your blog for a while now–I enjoy reading your co-reviews of the Disney canon films.

      I do like Mulan, the character herself, a lot. I feel like she has a little bit of a feminist agenda attached to her, but her character growth makes her feel real and believable. I think if the film looked better, it could potentially be in the disussion for Disney’s best. As of now, I have it barely outside of Disney’s top ten, pushed down to 11 for Frozen.

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