Mulan II

Walt Disney’s corpse has been rolling around in its gilded coffin for the last ten years as the idiots helming his legendary animation department have slowly but surely driven his legacy into the ground. It was too much to hope that Mulan, the one gem of redemption to issue forth from the Disney studios since the golden days of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, might stand untarnished and unexploited. Instead, like so many other Disney classics, Mulan has been unceremoniously dumped into the sequel mill only to be spit back out like sausage links in little overly-processed, bite-sized, turd-shaped lumps. The story of Mulan and company picks up right where the first movie left off. Mulan has returned home and resumed performing her household chores, Shang has finally gotten around to proposing to Mulan (well, I say finally, but the two have only been a couple for a month when he pops the question), and all is well in the land of China. Yes, all is well, except in the life of poor Mushu, Mulan’s guardian dragon. It turns out that if Mulan gets married, the duties of protecting her will pass to Shang’s family ancestors, leaving Mushu out of his comfy guardian job and back to ringing the ceremonial family gong.

As Mushu sets out to find a way to break up Mulan and Shang’s relationship, the two lovebirds are called upon by the Emporer to fulfill a very important mission to once again save the whole of China. This time, it’s the Mongol horde threatening to invade. The only way to keep the Mongols out of China is to create an alliance with the significantly smaller, and apparently less intelligent northern nation of Qui Gong. If that plot point doesn’t compute, don’t worry! The rest of movie makes even less sense. The only way to create an alliance is for the Emporer’s three daughters to marry the three sons of the lord of Qui Gong. Of course, in order for the marriages to happen, Shang and Mulan must safely escort the three imperial princesses to the land of Qui Gong and their new husbands-to-be.

The biggest kink in the plan comes, not from outside the party, but from within. The three princesses, out of sheer duty to their county, have agreed to marry three men they have never met. This doesn’t rest well with the extremely touchy-feely Mulan who believes the princesses should marry whom they wish, no matter how much danger it means for the entire nation of China. All of this is eclipsed by Shang and Mulan’s premarital problems as they discover, thanks to Mushu’s meddling, just how opposite their personalities are. Thank goodness for the Chinese wisdom of Yin and Yang showing them that no matter how different they are, they can still wear really cool matching necklaces to remind them of it.

Mulan II is a direct-to-DVD disgrace that takes everything excellent about its predecessor film, rips it to shreds, and uses it for rat cage lining. The honor and culture of the ancient Chinese people is gone, the songs are asinine, the dialogue contrived and the characters unrecognizably contorted into simplistic caricatures. Should we be surprised? No, after all this is Disney we’re talking about. Should we be disappointed? More than ever. The land, music, story and characters that were so beguiling and enchanting the first time around have been reduced to pure silliness. While the original film appealed to all ages, this sequel, like so many others, is squarely aimed at the kindergarten crowd.

In that respect Disney has succeeded in creating a ridiculously infantile movie that parents will be able to put on eternal repeat play for their youngsters. That is, so long as they don’t mind their kids learning the questionable lesson that you can live your life however you want to, regardless of the law or the promises you’ve made. It won’t matter because your magical dragon will always be there to clean up the mess and make you look like you were right all along.

Most of the famous voices from Mulan have returned except for Eddie Murphy, who has been replaced by the world’s greatest Eddie Murphy impersonator. The animation and artwork are also pretty good for a low budget sequel. Sadly, those are the only things going for this total waste of animation talent. Disney should be ashamed, but we know they won’t be. As they’ve proved time and time again, their profits from a straight-to-video sequel will always be worth more than the integrity of their storytelling. There’s not much to see in the bonus features section of Mulan II, and like the movie itself, most of it is aimed at younger audiences.

A few deleted scenes, complete with producer/director introductions, are at the top of the list. Most directors have to agonize over their cuts, but these deletions are so absurd that their removal had to have been the easiest decisions on this film. As they usually are on animated films, the deleted sections are black and white story-board style animations, and may not be as fascinating to the little ones.

A silly matching game, “Mushu’s Guess Who” is included which is sure to delight anyone four or under and able to push the arrow keys on the DVD remote. For those older, it’s worth a look just to hear the Eddie Murphy impersonator really strut his stuff.

Atomic Kitten, the latest on Disney’s list of underpromoted pop-tart music groups provides the musical backdrop to a montage music video. The song, “I Want To Be Like Other Girls” touts the sorrows of being an anorexic slave to fashion. With lyrics like “I want to be able to eat an entire cake” and “I’m tired of wearing platform shoes”, it sounds like a plea from the kind of girls parent’s don’t want their daughters choosing as role models.

There are two little puff pieces that hardly qualify as featurettes. If you get up to grab a glass of water you’ll likely miss the entire thing. One featurette gloats over the fact that such a terrible movie managed to get most of its star vocal cast back, while the other shows just how ignorant the movie makers were of the land and culture they were meant to portray in their film.

Everything in the extras menu is pure fodder for the kiddies and worth even less of a look for grown-ups than the movie itself. I do worry a little about the ideas (and vocabulary) some little kids might get while perusing the features. Parents may want to give them a quick overview (it won’t take half an hour of your time) before letting the kiddies get into it.