Mulan II marks the return of the whole gang in this direct to home entertainment release, and once again, Mulan is taking on an issue that oppresses women.
Not a month after she rescued China from devastation, Mulan (Ming-Na) is getting married to strapping General Li Shang (voiced by B.D. Wong). Her Dragon guardian Mushu is back, but Eddie Murphy is not. However, voice actor Mark Moseley deserves an award for his vocal impression. He was right on. So, Mushu is all excited Mulan is getting married, and he wants to plan the wedding…until he learns that his services will no longer be needed once she is married. So he quickly hatches a plan to sabotage her relationship with Shang—although, it's not a very well thought out plan. And he also has to take the plan on the road, because The Emperor (Pat Morita—aka, Arnold from Happy Days), sends Mulan and Shang to another kingdom to marry off his three daughters to a trio of princes in an effort to save China from being invaded. Shang is allowed to bring three soldiers with him, and who better than Chien-Po, Yao, and Ling, the three bumbling but well-meaning soldiers from the first movie? Ironically, this time around, the only ones thwarting the progress of the mission are the members OF the mission! Mushu tries with little success to break up the lovers (and he also steals the show while he's at it), our three soldiers begin wooing and falling for the three princesses who are supposed to be marrying other men to keep peace, and Mulan, unhappy about the idea that the princesses will be forced to marry men they don't know or love, begins to think of betraying the Emperor's commands.
Here we have one of the more entertaining Disney sequels. The songs are catchier in this film than they are in some of the other sequels that have been spawned, which I was happy to hear, because the songs really add to the experience. There's even a pop rock cover of one of the big numbers from the movie by the girl group Atomic Kitten, better known overseas. The storyline about loving who you want is excellent, and offers good strong role models for little girls—but I'm sure the blatant attack on arranged marriages could offend quite a few religions and customs that still exist today. There are exciting segments reminiscent of the first movie, and quite a few laugh out loud moments. This one will definitely be a crowd pleaser for both kids and adults. And, aside from the absence of Eddie Murphy, the cast is practically all-star, and also features Harvey Fierstein, Michelle Kwan, and Gedde Watanabe (you may recognize him from Sixteen Candles!).
An aspect ratio of 1:78:1 is a pleasant surprise, since in the past, Disney's "direct to" movies were full frame. This is a fresh new print, with no signs of dust. The picture is clean, tight, rich and colorful, and looks beautiful in progressive scan.
Disney doesn't skimp on the sound. The 5.1 audio track is available in English, French or Spanish. The sound is crystal clear, and makes full use of the traveling and surround effects. Music is crisp with excellent, sharp and clean bass response.
As recent as the releases of the Aladdin sequels on DVD, I haven't seen this option by Disney. It's called "fast play" and is introduced as soon as you begin the movie. It's pretty crazy. Basically, it plays EVERYTHING on the disc straight through and you can hit "menu" at anytime to escape the auto play and choose any of the options from the menu. It begins with some previews, of course, including one for "The Incredibles" on DVD. At the end of the movie, there is an annoying "subtitle" that runs across the bottom of the screen for the entire credits telling you to stay tuned for the extra features. And those extra features are:
DELETED SCENES—typical Disney scenes, which are still pencil drawings shown in succession with a soundtrack playing. This "rough sketch" deleted scene thing does not appeal to me. But if you like it, it's here. Two scenes.
MUSIC & MORE—this is the video for the song by Atomic Kitten, which is basically their version dubbed over the scene in which the movie version was used in film.
BACKSTAGE DISNEY: VOICES OF MULAN—this is a few quick comments from some of the voice actors. The best part of this is that the voice of Mushu is completely overlooked, most likely so we would remain fooled that it is not Eddie Murphy, but Mushu begins to protest at the end of the segment that they aren't mentioning him.
CAPTIONS—English option only for subtitles for hearing impaired.
CHAPTER SELECTION—offers 16 breaks in the movie.
Mulan II is a worthy Disney sequel. It offers enough of a Cinderella story to charm little girls, and plenty of wisecracking and troublemaking action by the male characters to entertain the boys. And it will make adults laugh, too! Fans of the original will want to own this one.