Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Mulan II (2004)
Plot: Set a month after the events of the first movie, Shang proposes to Mulan which she immediately accepts. Shortly after their engagement was announced however, the Emperor of China summons them to escort his three daughters, Princesses Mei, Ting-Ting, and Su, to be married to three princes in the kingdom of Qui Gong in order to secure an alliance against the Mongols before they attack China. They take their three friends, Chein Po, Yao and Ling with them. But when Mushu learns that he will lose his job as guardian dragon if Mulan and Shang get married, he tries to split them apart. To make matters worse, Mei, Ting-Ting and Su start to fall in love with Chein Po, Yao and Ling while they are being escorted to Qui Gong.
I saw this movie when I was a kid and thought it was just a cheesy Disney sequel that at least had a nice ending for Mulan, Shang and their friends. But after I watched Doug Walker's Disneycember review for this movie, I decided to go on Netflix and give it another look, and...yeah while I'm not as infuriated with it as Walker is, I have to admit that some of the flaws are rather serious.
The animation is wonderful...when it's not focused on facial expressions. A lot of the backgrounds behind some of the wide shots like the shot where Shang purposes are beautiful to look at. The animation on the faces of the characters on the other hand is surprisingly off. While the the designs to the characters look okay, their expressions look too comedically expressive for a sequel to Mulan. They make what is happening a little too over the top in way that makes it a little too clear that isn't the first movie and a bad way. The facial expressions on Shang in particular are really over the top. There's a scene where Shang is arguing with Mulan and his angry expressions are... really weird. My brother would describe it as ugly, but frankly I feel like even calling it ugly would be a little kind.
The music is not very interesting in the slightest. The first song Lesson Number One I thought was really cheesy. In fact, even as a kid I thought it was a little hard watch because it was so corny. We have a repeat of A Girl Worth Fighting For which sounds fun but it adds a couple more characteristics to Chein Po, Yao and Ling that were not in the first film which is a little distracting. And while (I Wanna Be) Like Other Girls I admit had a good emotional start, the rest of it is so loud and over-the-top that it kind of ruins it.
The characters feel like altered versions of themselves. Like I said before the revised version of A Girl Worth Fighting For felt like it was adding characteristics of Chain Po, Yao and Ling that were forced. Shang is often very cranky and it's annoying to watch, Mulan, while not horrible doesn't do a whole lot of brave things, but by far the worst character watching this film is Mushu. Now, I loved watching Mushu when I was little, he was probably my favorite part about the first film. But tell me after reading the plot paragraph in this review that you haven't figured out what is wrong with him in this movie. It's amazing how much of a selfish, conniving, jerk he is in this movie. I want to like him for old times sake, but his deeds are so despicable that even his redemption in the end is not very satisfying.
The biggest problem with the film is its story. Just from explaining the plot, you can probably figure out what's going to happen. Like many Disney direct-to-DVD sequels, the story is about as predictable as you can get. There's even a sad twist during the last third with Shang that they try to make a big deal, but you can easily figure out everything is going to be okay in the end. But probably the biggest problem with this movie I didn't realize until I watched Doug Walker's disneycember review. The whole story is set on the idea of Mei, Ting-Ting and Su marrying in order to save China, but that becomes hard for them to do because they want to be free and marry whoever they want. Now I get the feeling that if they found a right writer for the job, this could have become a more complex and satisfying story about what it means to sacrifice for the good of your country and whether or not it's right and so on and at first it seemed like that's what they where going for until they sing (I Wanna Be) Like Other Girls where they are basically saying "screw this, we want to be free from duty and everything." Normally this would work for Disney, but this time, it's not about following the law like Jasmine in Aladdin or they were betrothed since birth like Aurora in Sleeping Beauty or something like that, it's about saving your country. Their mission is to marry so that thousands of not millions of people won't die. I won't give away the ending, but watching it again after watching Walker's review, it sounds like he was right; it looks like they're willing to let people die for love. There's no explanation as to what happens with the possible war, we don't find out what happens with the alliance, so for all we know things end badly at some point after the film ends. That's really wrong.
And that's my review for Mulan II. The animation is great when it doesn't focus on over-the-top facial expressions and hey, if you want to see a story where Mulan and Shang get together along with a romance subplot with Chein Po, Yao, and Ling, now you do. But the characters are not entirely themselves, the music is cheesy and the story is not only predictable but it has an ending that is potentially morally wrong. I don't know if I would call it the worst of the Disney sequels, but if you don't want to see it just for the sake of seeing all of them, this is one movie you should definitely skip.