Disney’s Mulan (PG13)
Starring Liu Yifei, Tzi Ma, Donnie Yen, Jet Li
Directed by Niki Caro
Disney’s US$200 million (S$273 mil) live-action remake of the 1998 cartoon feature — which in turn adapted from the Chinese folklore The Ballad of Mulan — is finally here and everyone is saying how gorgeous the sets, costumes and cinematography are. They are. (Is there going to be a Mulan Land in Shanghai Disneyland soon?) Not going to dispute that.
But the movie, about a girl (Liu Yifei) who disguises as a dude to prevent her ageing father (Tzi Ma) from conscription, is also pretty dull. The action is flashy but not exciting (Donnie Yen is sadly under-used) and the fortune-cookie dialogue about being “Loyal, Brave and Truth” gets tiresome after a while.
Director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) and her creative team clearly wanted to stay true to the source material and the animated feature which resulted in some odd tonal shifts.
For authenticity’s sake, they ditched Mushu, Eddie Murphy’s fast-talking dragon in the animated version. But they didn’t abandon the supernatural entirely: there’s Gong Li’s shape-shifting evil witch, who looks like she’s just stepped out from a George RR Martin fantasy.
She’s supposed to be the scariest character in the movie but isn’t; that honour goes to the Emperor, portrayed by her Singaporean compatriot Jet Li. So bizarrely stilted is his performance that one wonders if he’s played by his animatronic double. Psst, did Jet know he’s in a live-action movie? (** ½)
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures