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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Darrell Rooney and Lynne Southerland
Cast:
Jillian Henry, Michelle Kwan, Ming-Na, Pat Morita, Mark Moseley, Liliana Mumy, Donny Osmond, Lea Salonga
Writing Credits:
Various

Tagline:
She's primped. She's engaged. She's back.

Synopsis:
After saving her nation from evil Huns, the spirited Mulan gets the surprise of her young life when her love, General Shang, asks for her hand in marriage. Before the wedding, however, Mulan and Shang must seal a national alliance by escorting three princesses to their own arranged marriages. When Mulan discovers these women are to be wed against their will, the plans change, and what started as a fight against the rival Mongols becomes a fight with her beloved fiancé. Breathing fire into all the mayhem is the mischievous Mushu, who wants to keep Mulan single as long as possible in order to retain his job as her guardian dragon.

MPAA:
Rated G

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 79 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 2/1/2005

Bonus:
• Deleted Scenes
• “The World of Mulan” Interactive Feature
• “The Voices of Mulan” Featurette
• Music Video
• “Mushu’s Guess Who” Game
• Sneak Peeks


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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Mulan II (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 20, 2005)

Yet another Disney “direct-to-video” sequel comes to us with 2005’s Mulan II. The story takes place not long after the conclusion of the 1998 original. We see that that story’s events made magical dragon Mushu (voiced by Mark Moseley) a star within his realm who gets his every whim satisfied. In addition, Mulan (Ming-Na) waits for her beau Shang (BD Wong) to propose marriage, though she doesn’t just sit around idly; she maintains her physical and military training.

Indeed, Shang soon arrives and the pair become engaged. At first Mushu thinks this will be good for him, but he then learns that when a woman gets married, her husband’s ghostly ancestors take priority. This means Mushu will lose his exalted and beloved position.

Back with the happy couple, we see that they may not be in synch with each other. They have very different ideas about things, and Mushu takes the opportunity to try to thwart the marriage. He thinks he does so in her best interest, but it’s obvious he just wants to keep his job.

Shang and Mulan get called to meet with the Emperor (Pat Morita). They get an assignment to accompany three princesses (Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh and Lauren Tom) to another realm so they can marry the sons of potential enemies and maintain the peace. Shang and Mulan recruit old buddies Yao (Harvey Fierstein), Ling (Gedde Watanabe), and Chien-Po (Jerry Tondo) and head off on their mission. The rest of the flick follows their journey and its complications as well as Mushu’s efforts to retain his cushy position.

As with most Disney sequels, most of the original actors return here. The most notable exception stems from the absence of Eddie Murphy as Mushu. I can’t say it comes as a surprise that he fails to reappear, but it’s a minor disappointment. Moseley does a pretty good approximation of Murphy’s voice, but it’s just not the same.

One more positive surprise comes from the quality of the project. Most of these direct-to-video sequels look cheap and barely rise above the level of Saturday morning programming. This issue definitely doesn’t affect Mulan II. While it fails to equal the quality of feature animation, the film looks much closer than I expected. The art largely replicated the delicate and lush aspects of the first movie, and the animation seems pretty smooth, at least given its roots. Usually the sequels are crude and cheesy, but those problems don’t affect Mulan II.

As for the story, it’s not a weakness but it’s not much of a strength either. It doesn’t help that we can easily anticipate where the story will go, and the movie features some simplistic moralizing about following your heart and whatnot. Of course, the first flick did the same, but it mustered more flair and panache along the way. This one tells its tale in a clunkier manner and doesn’t enjoy the depth and vivacity of the original. It also goes for an easy solution at the end that proves unsatisfying.

That said, I must admit I moderately enjoyed Mulan II. Does it do anything special? No, but it manages to provide a generally entertaining and amusing tale without many notable flaws. There’s enough to keep us interested along the way.

Too many of these direct-to-video sequels are poorly-developed opportunities to make some bucks. I won’t deny that Mulan II exists primarily as a reasonably inexpensive way to churn out some product, but it demonstrates a significantly higher level of quality than usual. Mulan II doesn’t work as well as most of the studio’s theatrical releases, but it comes across as acceptably enjoyable.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus C-

Mulan II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not too many concerns popped up in this solid transfer.

Sharpness fared well. No problems with softness crept into the image at any time. The movie stayed nicely distinctive and well-defined. I saw no issues related to jagged edges or shimmering, and the transfer also appeared to lack any edge enhancement. As one might expect from a brand-new flick, it didn’t display any source flaws.

Colors looked quite good. Like the original movie, Mulan II used a fairly pastel palette with concise but gentle tones. The DVD exhibited them with good vividness and clarity. The colors consistently appeared lush and rich. Blacks were also dense and deep, while low-light shots showed good definition. All in all, I found no problems here.

Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Mulan II didn’t present a sensational mix, it worked decently for the material. The soundfield opened up the events acceptably well, though not in a particularly dynamic way. Most of the audio stayed focused in the forward channels. Those speakers featured good stereo imaging for the score as well as a nice sense of delineation for effects. The various elements were accurately placed and moved across the channels well.

The surrounds contributed reinforcement most of the time but contributed a bit of unique information on occasion. The smattering of action sequences worked best, although they never became too active. They did enough to help create a moderately involving setting.

Across the board, audio quality remained positive. Speech blended with the animation and sounded natural. No problems with edginess or intelligibility occurred. The score sounded lively and dynamic, with tight lows and vivid highs. Effects also demonstrated nice dimensionality, as they appeared clean and appropriately powerful. This wasn’t a terribly impressive soundtrack, but it did what it needed to do.

A smattering of supplements rounds out the set. We get a collection of four deleted scenes. Via the “Play All” function, these run a total of 11 minutes and 48 seconds. Producer Jennifer Blohm and directors Darrell Rooney and Lynne Southerland offer introductions for these clips. They give us some notes about the scenes and let us know why the snippets didn’t make the cut.

All of the deleted scenes come in the form of story reels; none of them present even rough animation. To my surprise, these clips offer some interesting sequences. The first one could have added some much-needed action to the affair and might’ve been a good addition. The others help develop relationships a little more, though they probably would seem redundant. In any case, it’s good to get a look at all of them here.

An interactive feature comes to us with The World of Mulan. You learn about concepts like yin and yang, arranged marriages, the legend of Mulan, fireworks, kung fu, dragons, and Chinese food. In addition to the Mushu narration and movie clips, we get some comments from Rooney, Southerland, Blohm, and singer Lea Salonga. When you get through all three pieces, you get a reward: a calendar that lets you figure out the animal the Chinese use to represent your birth year. (Ambitiously, it goes all the way to 2011, so I guess they figure kids will watch this DVD for the next decade plus.) It’s a basic piece meant for the kiddies and it lacks much depth, but it explores the topics in an entertaining way.

A short featurette looks at The Voices of Mulan. In this two-minute and 53-second clip, we hear from Southerland, Rooney, Blohm, and actors Ming-Na, Pat Morita, Jerry Tondo, Gedde Watanabe, Lauren Tom, and Michelle Kwan. They offer some quick notes about the characters but don’t tell us much in this brief and puffy program.

Next we find a music video for “(I Wanna Be) Like Other Girls” by Atomic Kitten. This simply presents a montage of movie clips accompanied by the rocking version of this song. It’s dull.

Most Disney animated DVDs include some form of game, and Mulan II follows suit with Mushu’s Guess Who. Based on a scene from the movie, Mushu creates shadow puppets and we have to figure out what character he plays. It’s pretty easy but it offers a minor element of fun, even if it doesn’t give us a real reward for completion.

Mulan II opens with a collection of ads. These include promos for Bambi and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie. Both of these also appear in the Sneak Peeks domain along with trailers for Lilo & Stitch 2, The Incredibles, and various “Disney Princess” products.

Will fans of the original movie find a comparably strong experience with Mulan II? No, but it stands as one of the better Disney direct-to-video sequels. Granted, it doesn’t have much competition, since most of its siblings stink. Nonetheless, I think it works pretty well and offers a mostly enjoyable way to pass the time.

As for the DVD, it presents very strong picture quality along with good but unexceptional audio. Only a minor roster of extras fills out the set. Can I heartily endorse Mulan II? No, as the movie lacks enough spark and flair to become anything particularly creative or endearing. However, it works better than most direct-to-video sequels and will probably prove entertaining for fans of the original movie. It’s not a classic, but it offers some fun.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5454 Stars Number of Votes: 33
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