Mulan is the latest offering from Disney, and for the most part, the result is an average animation flick. Given the number of bad movies this summer (Godzilla, Hope Floats), Mulan actually may appear better than it seems. However, compared to the greatness achieved in previous Disney animated movies, I'd say Mulan doesn't come close.

Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) is the name of the heroine in the movie, a Chinese girl who goes to fight in her father's place, disguised as a male. Accompanying her is a dragon invoked by her ancestors, Mushu (Eddie Murphy), and a cricket, Cri Kee. Needless to say, Disney capitalises on every opportunity to take advantage of the fact Mulan is a female in the world of males. The most powerful part of the movie is how Mulan actually makes the decision to not lead the life of a traditional Chinese girl and take up arms instead, so her father does not have to fight again. But once she does make the decision, she proves herself in the army quite readily and before you know it, she's coming up with ideas to save China from the invading Huns. In some ways, Mulan has fallen victim to what even some of the better movies this summer have: the plot has too much action and too little story.

As with Armageddon, what really works in this movie is the humour. The animation is mixed: the backdrops and action scenes are gorgeous, but I found the movements of the characters to be awkward. I consider the most spectacular scene in the movie to be the one starting with the soldiers charging down the mountain and culminating with an avalanche initiated by Mulan. However, this pales in comparison to scenes in previous Disney cartoons like the animal stampede in The Lion King. The character development, particularly of the primary villain, is minimal. This represents a marked departure from other Disney movies where villains such as a Jafar or Scar have distinct fearsome personalities. The music is highly forgettable.

Parts of the film are daring and experimental by Disney standards. Even though the movie is bold in terms of depicting a female heroine who can do what the "big boys" can (which in itself is an incongruous premise), in the end it all boils down to a typical girl-hooks-up-with-boy ending. There are plenty of disturbing scenes that are effective particularly when animated as almost still images. I thought one depicting the massacre left behind by the Huns was pretty powerful, but, again, this does match up to the depiction of the death of Simba's father in The Lion King. While I do think Disney did a positive thing by going for a somewhat experimental structure, the fact they flop back to the cliches makes this a somewhat schizophrenic movie and places it in the "average" category. I recommend the matinee showing or waiting for it to come out on video.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||