Mulan is a weird combination of awesome and satisfying Wha? I love the daughter doing what she thinks is right even though it's against society's norms. I love the weird attraction that Shang seems to have to Mulan before he realizes she's a she. I love the ridiculous American-style charicatures of The Band of Three. I severely love the celebrity voices with Mr. Miyagi at the very top of the list and Jackie Chan as the Chinese dub of Shang right there after it. Sassy Black Man Dragon Mushu is hanging out Riiiiiigghht at the cusp of when I still liked Eddie Murphy and only a year or two later did he cross the line and go from amusing to annoying for me.
I'm torn on the songs. On the one hand I recognize that certain songs are trying to emulate the Chinese style but as a culturally uneducated American, I'm not sure if they hit the mark or if perhaps I should be slightly offended. The songs that do NOT try to fit a style are excellent however. "Be a Man" is so catchy and forceful that it would be a shame for anyone not to immediately add it to their workout playlist. "Reflection" of course was the radio single and while I think the song is great standing alone it does feel a little bit belty for the intimate moment that it accompanies on screen.
While I love this movie as a whole I can't help but find myself shouting at the screen during moments when I just cannot suspend my disbelief. The idea that rural china has a busy enough roadway system to cause a massive wreck, the idea of a single heavyset man lifting his entire platoon and a horse, the idea of a rope that slender actually taking the weight of that horse, the black eyeballs of the Huns, and the idea that of the entire platoon, Mulan and Shang are the only horse owners is just too much for me to take. I think the nit-picky problem here is that in general, this movie ping-pongs between extremely serious (a village being burned, an elderly man going to war to die) and just plain silly (a cricket and dragon dressed as a soldier riding a panda). And yet despite the whiplash of mood, they seem to balance out as long as we utterly avoid the middle ground.
Favorite Character: Emperor Miyagi. I can think of few others who can pull off sassy Confucious like Pat Morita can.
Least necessary character: Little Brother. Eeyup.
Overall: Despite the occasional "Oh Come ON!" moment, I have always and still do now enjoy this one.
"Mulan" sure does have some interesting voice casting choices. Donny Osmond as the hunk! Harvey Firestein as the tough guy! James Hong as a fusspot - well, that one isn't ironic. Erm, George Takei as Chinese! Which is okay, because George Takei. Also, Jackie Chan in the alternate audio track, including the singing part. That's the best reason to watch it on DVD over VHS! And I say the audio track instead of the music video because the music video isn't as entertaining as it should or could be.
There isn't much to love about the movie, but there I can't really think of much to hate about it either. The story is more engaging than, say, Pocahontas. But about the "woman posing in a man's army" theme and jokes. While they're not terribly unamusing, I can't help but think of the Futurama episode "War is the H-Word" from a few years later and how much funnier it was using the idea.
But while "Mulan" isn't very hilarious, it's not embarrassingly unfunny, like a lot of a certain movie about a regal wild cat. Eddie Murphy does come dangerously close to annoying Donkey level, but it's hard for me to hate him because Mushu's eyes look like Pluto's. As for the "serious" parts, I will say that it does action pretty darn well, something you don't normally associate with Disney movies. It also has something else we haven't seen much of this year: a good guy (ahem, girl) beating the bad guy not through the power of love or magic or luck, but with her wits. I mean, mostly I'm talking about the avalanche thing and he comes back after that, but STILL. That's satisfying as heck.
And the art/animation quality is similar in that it certainly isn't flawed, really, but... Well, after Hercules it's a bit of a downer, after being spoiled with a new and unique visual style, to get something with a look that "plays it safe." I really don't know how to define the overall look of the film, other than "normal 90s Disney." It's a normal that's done to perfection, though...so I'm not even sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing!
I pretty much agree with Amanda on the music. Except apparently I prefer Jackie Chan's rendition of "Be a Man" whereas she prefers Donny Osmonds because, and hilariously - Donny Osmond's is more manly. And it is, strangely. But maybe what I like about the former is knowing that it's Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan as Jackie Chan. Because personally, if I could choose the perfect man to model myself after, the guy that I should strive to be as much like as possible, it would be Jackie Chan.
Favorite character: I wonder why Jackie Chan couldn't have been cast for the English-speaking role of...oh, uh. Yeah, I guess his English acting isn't the best. In that case, then, Chinese dub Shang.
Least necessary: Aw, I wanted to call dibs on Little Brother. It sure did seem like they were setting up a character at the beginning that they would actually end up using later, didn't it? For the sake of voting for another one, though, I'll go with Disembodied Head guy. That type of gag would fly if he was in something with that sort of tone established, like The Haunted Mansion or Corpse Bride, but here it's just off-putting.
Idea for a fanfic: Mulan meets Po from Kung Fu Panda. Make it happen!
Overall: The weird thing about "Mulan" is that, while I don't remember a whole lot about it afterwards, I do remember having enjoyed watching it when I did (I don't mean as a kid, but this past week and a year or two before that). And as strange as that sounds I would find that good enough reason to recommend it.