Mulan @ Bentonville Film Festival

Mulan is a story about a girl of the same name who challenges traditional Chinese culture, in the name of helping her family and her country. In China, traditional gender roles dominate, meaning that women are not allowed to do ‘manly’ things. In fact, a girl is meant to spend her childhood preparing to become a bride, then spending the rest of her life tending to her husband. Mulan has already decided that this is not a lifestyle she envisions for herself.

When the Huns attack China, Mulan’s father is called to take part in the war. He is an elderly, weak man, in no condition to fight. Realizing this, Mulan (voiced by Ming-Na) steals his conscription notice and decides to enlist in her father’s place. She cuts her hair and layers on clothing in an attempt to appear more masculine. Mulan faces numerous challenges on her journey, but she pulls through with sheer willpower, and the help of her sidekick Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy). Mulan eventually comes face to face with the Huns, and amazingly ends up combatting them and saving China. Her bravery certainly does not go unnoticed, as she is rewarded by the Emperor of China (voiced by Pat Morris, better known as Arnold from “Happy Days”). Throughout the film, Mulan struggles to find her identity and her place in the world, something that everyone has been through or will go through at some point in life. A breathtaking tale that is sure to please.

Directors Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft produced a true classic with Mulan. This movie is a visual feast of wonderful Disney animation, developed characters, and thrilling action. As with all Disney movies, the songs in Mulan are captivating. Be on the listen for Donny Osmond who is the singing voice of Captain Li Shang. The only problem with this movie is that it is obviously (and expectedly) Americanized, and thus does not authentically represent the Chinese culture (heck, Disney animators got their scenery ideas from the sets at Disney World!). On a positive note, the sappy boy-meets-girl storyline usually seen in Disney movies has been downplayed. The relationship between Mulan and her love interest Captain Li Shang (voiced by B.D. Wong) is easily digested. All in all, I highly recommend Mulan, a beautiful story of self-discovery, loyalty and most of all, love.

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