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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Niki Caro
Cast:
Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Li Gong
Writing Credits:
Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Elizabeth Martin, Lauren Hynek

Synopsis:
A young Chinese maiden disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father. MPAA:
Rated PG-13.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Descriptive Audio 2.0
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 11/10/2020

Bonus:
• “Updating a Classic” Featurette
• “Mulan By Another Name” Featurette
• “Being Bad” Featurette
• “Reflections of Mulan” Featurette
• “The Original Mulan” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Videos
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy


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RELATED REVIEWS


Mulan [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 16, 2020)

Disney sure does love their live-action remakes of their animated flicks. For their latest endeavor in this regard, we get 2020’s Mulan, a new version of the 1998 semi-hit.

Set in Imperial China, a vicious warlord named Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee) threatens the Chinese. The Emperor (Jet Li) demands one male member of each family to serve in the military, and without a son in his clan, former warrior Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma) needs to go despite his advancing age and mild disability.

Hua Zhou’s daughter Mulan (Yifei Liu) goes behind her dad’s back and takes his place, even though this could cause major issues if she gets caught. We follow Mulan’s attempts to pass herself off as a male and also to serve as a soldier.

At the start, I described 1998’s Mulan as a “semi-hit”, which might see a little harsh, but I think it remains accurate. With a worldwide gross of $304 million on a $90 million budget, it turned a modest profit, and it also marked a decent bounce back after the disappointing returns of 1996’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and 1997’s Hercules.

Still, 1998’s Mulan landed in 13th place for the year, between The Truman Show and You’ve Got Mail. That meant good numbers but not quite the expected reception for a tentpole Disney animated flick.

We’ll never know how 2020’s Mulan would’ve fared at the box office, as the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on its release plans in many places, including the US. After a few postponements, Disney skipped the film’s US theatrical issue entirely after Tenet failed to generate good ticket sales and the other studios panicked.

At least this means I can view Mulan separate from its financial success or failure. Taken semi-independently, I see the movie as… okay.

In general, I view so-called “political correctness” as a good idea. I think of “political correctness” not as a repressive force that quashes free interaction but instead simply as a concept that should lead us to strive to avoid the careless bigotry of the past.

However, I can see how political correctness can turn into a problem if it causes artists to self-censor, and I sense that issue with Mulan. Actually, “self-censor” may go too far, but I do suspect that PC considerations influenced this production in a negative manner.

In the case of Mulan, I think the film’s producers so desperately wanted to avoid any potential stereotypical or offensive content that they fear might seem anything other than 100 percent dignified. This means major changes from the 1998 film.

Musical numbers? Gone. Cute cricket sidekick? Gone. Dragon companion and guide? Gone.

Admittedly, the omission of Mushu the dragon makes sense. While I liked Eddie Murphy’s performance, he and the character seemed out of place even in the animated setting, and this more real-world take on the subject matter would leave the role even more inappropriate.

Honestly, I wouldn’t bemoan the various changes if the live-action version of Mulan managed to at least bring some of its predecessor’s sense of fun. Say what you want about Mushu and Cri-kee, but they added much needed lightness to the tale, and the 2020 film does nothing to compensate.

No, the live-action Mulan takes itself seriously - very, very seriously. Not that it lacks any levity, but the comic relief appears infrequently and seems like a token element at best.

This tends to make Mulan a bit of a slog, mainly because everything about it tries so hard to be “important” and respectful. Again, I don’t endorse a version of the story that veers into stereotypes or mockery, but the filmmakers could find a happy medium that avoids the ponderous self-importance on display here.

The animated edition also benefited more readily from suspension of disbelief. When presented in cartoon form, it became easier to swallow that Mulan could pass for a male.

In live-action form, this becomes a bridge too far. Liu never remotely threatens to pass off as a man – even a young, scrawny one – and that turns into a drawback, partly because it means the other characters seem like idiots. Granted, people often see what they want/expect to see, and no one would ever think a female could fill in for a male, but still, Liu doesn’t offer a vaguely convincing man, and that turns into a persistent distraction.

On the positive side, Mulan provides a wholly professional affair, and some of its action scenes play out pretty well. They do occasionally feel a little too influenced by the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon school of martial arts, but they add some life to the proceedings.

Unfortunately, these sporadic highlights don’t become enough to carry this overly dreary affair. Too absorbed with its own desire to respect the material, it never offers much sense of life or excitement.


The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

Mulan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a positive presentation.

Overall definition looked good. Virtually no softness materialized, so the film appeared accurate and concise.

I noticed no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes stayed absent. No print flaws cropped up either.

Mulan offered a fair amount of amber and teal, though it included enough prominent other tones to break free from the trap implied by those dominant colors. The disc made the hues look solid.

Blacks were dark and deep, and low-light shots showed good clarity and smoothness. I felt pleased with this fine image.

Given its moderate action orientation, the film’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 opened up pretty well. Though the film didn’t include as many slam-bang set pieces as a typical action flick, it brought out some good sequences. When the track needed to expand during battle elements and the like, it used the full spectrum well.

Elements were properly placed and moved about the setting in a convincing way. The surrounds contributed a nice sense of space and involvement. Music depicted positive stereo imaging and the entire presentation offered a good feeling of environment.

Audio quality fared well. Speech was accurate and distinctive, without notable edginess or other issues. Music sounded full-blooded and rich, as the score was rendered nicely.

Effects showed good range and definition. They demonstrated solid low-end and were impressive across the board. Ultimately, this was an appealing track.

Five featurettes appear here, and Updating a Classic runs 15 minutes, 16 seconds. It brings comments from director Niki Caro, director of photography Mandy Walker, production designer Grant Major, producer Jason T. Reed, executive producers Barrie M. Osborne and Bill Kong, hair, makeup and prosthetics designer Demise Kum, costume designer Bina Daigeler, stunt coordinator Benjamin Cooke, 1st AD Liz Tan, and actors Yifei Liu, Gong Li, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Tzi Ma, and Jason Scott Lee.

“Classic” discusses the adaptation of the source and a few production areas. Mostly it offers praise and lacks much substance.

Mulan By Another Name goes for seven minutes, 20 seconds and offers notes from Caro, Liu, Lee, Cooke, Reed, Kum, Daigeler, Osbrone, Jet Li, strength and conditioning coach Bojan Mladenovic and horse master Wayne McCormack.

“Name” looks at casting and bringing the title character to life. Despite a few good insights, happy talk remains the dominant factor here.

With Being Bad, we get a six-minute, 40-second reel that includes remarks from Caro, Lee, Reed, Gong Li, Mladenovic, Daigeler, Kum. We get a view of the movie’s villains in this erratic, largely puffy piece.

Reflections of Mulan fills three minutes, 40 seconds with info from Caro, Liu, and composer Harry Gregson-Williams. “Reflections” covers the movie’s music. It becomes another superficial reel.

For the final featurette, we find The Original Mulan, a two-minute, 24-second piece that involves Caro and actor Ming-Na Wen. Wen played Mulan in the animated film, and this clip looks at her cameo in the 2020 version. We learn little of purpose.

Six Deleted Scenes occupy a total of seven minutes, 15 seconds. These offer minor bits, without much that seems interesting. A sequence with Mulan and Xianniang becomes the only mildly compelling snippet.

We can view the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Caro. She tells us a little about the sequences but only occasionally reveals why she cut them.

A few Music Videos appear, and we find four versions of “Reflection”. As done by Christina Aguilera, we can view a “Concept Video” or a “Lyric Video”.

“Concept” mixes bland lip-synch footage of Aquilera with movie clips, while “Lyric” simply shows on shot from the film overlaid with the words. Aguilera oversings the bombastic production and the videos bore.

Yifei Liu also does her take on “Reflection”, and we can hear her sing it in Mandarin or English. Both videos are identical in visual terms, as the mix recording studio footage with film clips. They’re dull videos, but at least Liu offers a much more understated version of the song compared to the big!!! Aguilera take.

Aguilera appears again to do “Loyal Brave True”. This song also gets the “Concept Video” and “Lyric Video” treatment, and each of those two can be viewed with English or Spanish vocals.

As with Liu’s videos, both the English and Spanish versions of these clops remain identical except for the language in use. Unsurprisingly, Aguilera oversings again, though not to the extreme of “Reflection”.

The “Concept Videos” just plop a lip-synching Aguilera in front of stylized visuals from the movie. “Lyric” simply plops the words on top of a repeating publicity clip of Mulan and her sword. Yawn.

22 years after the animated film found a decent audience, Disney remakes Mulan as a live-action affair. Unfortunately, the new edition lacks any of the spark or fun that turned the original into an enjoyable adventure. The Blu-ray boasts top-notch visuals as well as very good audio and a fluffy compilation of bonus materials. If Mulan took itself less seriously, it might work.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main