Mulan & Mulan II
Mulan (January 30/05)
Silly, subpar Disney effort involving a young girl and her efforts to overcome sexism in feudal-era China. Despite some fine voice work from actors such as Ming-Na (as the titular character) B.D. Wong, and Gedde Watanabe, the film never quite takes off - thanks primarily to an uneasy balance of comedy and drama. In terms of the former, Eddie Murphy pops up as a wisecracking dragon named Mushu - turning in an expectedly wacky performance that seems oddly out of place with some of the more intense sequences (ie just as an evil warlord commands China's Emperor to kneel before him, Zod-style, the film abruptly shifts to more of Mushu's off-kilter shenanigans). And while Mulan is a fairly decent character, she's surrounded by a cast comprised almost exclusively of forgettable and cliched figures - something that's exacerbated by the film's emphasis on tiresome action sequences and tedious musical numbers. In the end, Mulan isn't bad - it's just mediocre, which is particularly disappointing given its Disney pedigree.
Mulan II (January 31/05)
More of the same, as Mulan and Shang (now engaged) must accompany three Princesses through perilous territory - a journey that puts their relationship to the ultimate test, thanks to the mischievous Mushu (who must ensure that the two don't marry, lest he lose his status as Mulan's guardian). Mulan II will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the original, though there's no denying that the production is far more kid-oriented than its predecessor. Having said that, the movie does feel like a natural extension of Mulan's story - something that's assisted by the return of virtually every voice actor from the first one, with Eddie Murphy the only notable absence (Mushu is performed by one Mark Moseley, who also provided the voice of Donkey in the Shrek video games). This is despite the decidedly low-key storyline, which finds Mulan saving just a handful of characters (instead of, you know, all of China).