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Mulan II
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2005

Format: Movie
By:   Darrell Rooney, Lynne Southerland
Genre:   Family/Adventure
Released:   Released February 1, 2005
Review Date:   February 13, 2005
Audience Rating:   Rated G
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

“Hold onto your ticket, Cri-Kee! The show’s about to start!” – Mushu

I never watched the original Mulan in the theatre. By the time it had come out, I was a bit burned out on Disney flicks that weren’t made by Pixar and just quit going to their animated flicks after The Lion King. People that I trusted had told me that Mulan was good, but I never found the time to watch it.

So now, as they have become wont to do, Disney has released a direct-to-DVD sequel, imaginatively titled Mulan II. When I got the tap to review it, I borrowed the original from a friend and had myself a little double feature. This would let me catch up on the characters, the story, and see how well the two films work together. Surprisingly enough, they fit together pretty well.

I won’t be reviewing the first movie here, but I agree it’s a decent little flick. Not one that I feel the need to own, but I enjoyed it. The sequel is also not too bad either. While it does fit the pattern of follow-up movies, and isn’t quite as good as the original, it’s not nearly as bad as most of the direct-to-DVD follow-ups that Disney has unleashed in the past.

The plot is fairly interesting in that it has no overt bad guy. What it does have is complications in the relationship between Mulan (Ming "Final Fantasy" Na) and (now General) Li Shang’s (B.D. Wong), and a journey across China with three princesses.

This film picks up one month after the end of the first movie, and there is trouble for China a-brewing. It seems that the Huns are gathering a huge army for another attack, and the emperor (Pat "Mr. Miyagi" Morita) thinks the only way China can stand against them is to unite with a neighboring kingdom. Of course the best way to secure the alliance is for the emperor’s three daughters to marry the three princes of the other kingdom. So he asks Mulan and Li Shang to see that the princesses are safely escorted to their future husbands.

Deciding that a small force will be less noticeable than a huge army, Li Shang gets Yao (Harvey “Independence Day” Fierstein), Soon-Tek (Fa Zhou) and Ling (Gedde Watanabe) to help in this endeavor. Hummm, the three single guards who sang about finding “A Woman to Fight For” in the original movie, guarding three beautiful princesses . . . I wonder what could possibly happen?

The other plot complication comes from the fact that if Mulan and Li Shang do wed, Mushu (Mark Moseley, doing one hell of a Eddie Murphy impression) will lose his newfound guardian status, since Li Shang’s ancestors will take over looking after Mulan. Panicked by this, he determines to split Mulan and Li Shang apart so he can keep his cushy job. We get misunderstandings, pranks, “getting to know you” scenes, child-friendly romance, a pretty cool action scene when bandits attack, and the required Disney songs.

What really makes Mulan II superior to most Disney DVD sequels is that it’s pretty well written, they got the entire cast back except Murphy, and the actors all turn in fine performances. Moseley does such a good job at being Murphy that I had to check the credits to make sure it wasn’t Eddie. Other good points: The plot doesn’t really talk down to the kids; it’s mostly character driven, and the movie actually fits the original in tone and feels like a natural continuation of the story of Mulan. The animation is good, about the quality of Disney’s TV shows.

On the downside, the songs are pretty average, except for the high-pitched, annoying one where Mulan acts as a Yoda-type for the young girls in her village. It almost made me turn off the movie. The other downside is that the ending feels a bit rushed, which is a shame since the movie is only 76 minutes long. It could have used a better denouement, but that’s not a deal-breaker.

On the DVD features side, you get four deleted scenes that were cut at the pencil-test stage. They mainly revolve around the original portrayal of the princesses. There’s also a (very) brief look at the voices behind the movie, an overview of “Mulan’s China”, a music video of one of the songs, some ads for other DVDs, and a shadow-puppet game for the kids. The DVD also features a “Fast-Play” option, aimed at the kids, where you just drop in the disk and the movie plays, followed by some pre-selected extras, no remote required. So while there are a few extras, it could be better.

Overall, Mulan II is a decent follow-up to a pretty good movie. It’s worth a rental. Disney fanatics will enjoy it and the kids will enjoy the further adventures of Disney's great Chinese heroine.

RevolutionSF Rating: 7/10
DVD Features: 5/10

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