Mulan II review by Mike Long

Disney's track record with their direct-to-video sequels to animated films is as spotty as those Dalmatians they seem to release every few years. (For the record, I’m not counting Toy Story 2 in this assessment, as I don’t consider it a Disney film, despite the logo and marketing.) From the pleasant (Little Mermaid II) to the unwatchable (The Return of Jafar) these sequels vary greatly in quality and none have lived up to the reputation of their predecessor. But, they doesn’t stop Disney from making them, and Mulan II is the latest entry into this line.

Mulan II begins a short time following the conclusion of the first film. Following her success in a the battle which saved China from the Huns, Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na) is once again living with her parents. Her dreams are seemingly fulfilled when Li Shang (voiced by B.D. Wong), her true love and partner in battle, proposes to her. However, just as they are planning the wedding, Mulan and Shang are summoned by the Emperor (voiced by Pat Morita). They are asked to escort the Emperor's three daughters -- Mei (voiced by Lucy Liu), Su (voiced by Lauren Tom), and Ting Ting (voiced by Sandra Oh) -- to a neighboring country, where they will be wed in an arranged marriage. These marriages will bring peace to the countries involved. Shang and Mulan decide to have their army buddies, Yao (voiced by Harvey Fierstein), Ling (voiced by Gedde Watanbe), and Chien-Po (voiced by Jerry Tondo) accompany them. Mulan doesn't like the idea of arranged marriages and she begins to question the princess' about their futures. Meanwhile, Mulan's mystical guardian, Mushu the Dragon (voiced by Mark Moseley...didn't he used to kick for the Redskins?) learns that if Mulan and Shang get married, he'll lose his place in the ancestral shrine. Therefore, he attempts to sabotage their relationship. These situations make the already perilous journey even more of a hazard.

Given the fact that the "Disney Princess" line of products has been a major boost to Disney's marketing in the past few years, and that Mulan is a great movie, it's not surprising that Disney decided to make this sequel. What is surprising is the fact that they've taken everything which was charming and endearing about the original and thrown it out the window. Mulan was an amazing film which touched on the themes of family, loyalty, bravery, and feminism, all the while offering great action scenes and humor. Mulan II attempts to retain some of that feeling, but simply goes about it the wrong way.

For example, the feminist aspects of the story are certainly there, as Mulan tries to convince the princess' to abandon their arranged marriages, but the message simply rings hollow in this film. There is only one action scene in the film, and it's very ho-hum. The songs in Mulan II aren't memorable at all. The characters of Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po made for nice comic relief in the first film, but there's simply too much of them here. Come to think of it, there's too much of everyone except for Mulan, who takes a back-seat to all of the other subplots. But, the film's biggest mistake was taking Mushu, who provided some incredibly funny moments in Mulan and essentially making him the villain. How is the audience, which will be comprised mainly of children, supposed to react when one of the most beloved characters from the first movie is suddenly evil? It's extremely odd. The fact that Eddie Murphy didn't reprise his role as Mushu isn't surprising. Not only from a financial aspect, but I wouldn't blame him for not wanting to take Mushu in this direction. These problems aren't helped by the fact that the animation is quite stiff at times and lacks the luster of Disney's theatrical animated releases. Mulan II isn't really a bad movie, but it truly pales in comparison to the original and makes far too many changes to the story and characters.

Mulan II comes to DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture is extremely sharp and clear. There is no grain on the image, nor are there any defects from the source material. The image is free from artifacting, but there are some mild problems caused by edge-enhancement. The colors are very good, but there are moments where one can detect subtle flaws in the animation. The DVD sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track offers clear dialogue with no notable defects. The stereo effects are good and the songs sound fine. The track does a fine job of providing occasional surround and subwoofer effects.

The Mulan II DVD contains a handful of extras. The DVD contains 4 "Deleted Scenes", all of which are in storyboard form. These scenes are introduced by co-directors Darrell Rooney & Lynne Southerland and producer Jennifer Blohm -- with the scenes and the intros, this segments runs about 12 minutes. We have the music video for the song "(I Wanna Be) Like Other Girls" performed by Atomic Kitten. Yet, we never get to see these kittens, as the video contains only clips from the film. "The World of Mulan" offers the viewer information about Chinese culture, as it focuses on the concept of Yin and Yang, arranged marriages, Chinese food, and the Chinese Zodiac. "Voices of Mulan" (3 minutes) is a brief segment which glosses over the voice actors in the film and actually draws attention to the fact that Eddie Murphy didn't come back for the sequel.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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