Mulan II (2004) – Movie Review

Dishonor on you, dishonor on your cow, dishonor
on your sequel.
Hey everybody, welcome to Mainely Movies.
Today Iím gonna be talking about Disneyís
2004 direct-to-video animated sequel: Mulan
II.
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Mulan II stars the vocal talents of Ming-Na
Wen, BD Wong, and Mark Moseley and was directed
by the duo of Darrell Rooney and Lynne Southerland.
Set a month after the end of the first movie,
this film tells the story of Mulan, voiced
by Ming-Na Wen, who, following her engagement
to General Shang, must escort the Emperorís
three daughters across the country so that
their arranged marriages can take place in
order to ensure a military alliance.
The first Mulan film is, without question,
one of my absolute favorite Disney movies.
Itís one of my favorite animated movies from
any studio and one of my favorite movies in
general.
After The Lion King, I would say that Mulan
was the movie that had the biggest impact

/> on me growing up.
It was a fantastic and entertaining story,
but more importantly, it had the character
of Mulan.
She was independent and strong and brave.
She did what needed to be done and didnít
let expectations and conventions stop her.
As an eight year old girl, she seemed like
a perfect role model to me, as silly as that
sounds considering sheís an animated character.
But, she was the first Disney female character
that ever seemed completely independent to
me.
She wasnít a damsel-in-distress, she wasnít
a princess waiting around for a prince to
come do all the heavy-lifting.
She was strong and she was awesome and the
movie benefited greatly as a result.
Six years passed and then suddenly, out of
nowhere, Mulan II was released direct-to-video.
At that point, Disneyís DTV sequels were
not a new phenomenon.
The house of mouse began pumping these bad
boys out on VHS in the early 90s with the
follow up to Aladdin, The Return of Jafar.
They put out a few of these sequels a year,
but in the early-2000s, production ramped
up and nearly every Disney movie seemed to
have a DTV sequel, even films that had been
released decades before.
These direct-to-video sequels donít have
the best reputation.
They didnít earn the nickname ìcheapquelsî
for nothing.
There are a few pretty decent exceptions (most
notably The Lion King 2: Simbaís Pride and
to a lesser extend The Lion King 1 Ω), but
the vast majority of these DTV movies are
underwhelming at best.
So, by the time Mulan II was released, I had
seen my fair share of these DTV movies.
I also wasnít 8 years old anymore, in fact
I was a freshman in high school.
But, it was Mulan, so I couldnít help but
be kind of excited about it.
After all, The Lion King, my favorite Disney
movie, had gotten two decent DTVs, including
one earlier that same year, so I was optimistic.
Stupidly optimistic, it turns out.
Mulan II is no Mulan.
Now obviously that was a given, but it was
also no Lion King 2.
It wasnít even a Lion King 1 Ω.
No, Mulan II was unfortunately down amongst
the ranks of some of the worst Disney direct-to-video
sequels.
So, you might be sitting there thinking ìBig
deal, what did you expect?î And I know that
most simply view these DTV releases as the
cash-grabs that they inevitably are, but when
I watch them, I try to find some purpose to
justify the sequelís existence.
And with its inspirational story and the impact
it had on female characters in family films,
Mulan was a movie that really couldíve justified
a sequel.
Unfortunately, Mulan II is not that sequel.
I really donít understand what the filmmakers
were thinking with this one.
Just from a plot perspective, thereís no
need for this movie.
It doesnít add anything to the story or character
development from the first film, so it ends
up being this unnecessary and weird, tangential
ìwhat happens next?î adventure.
Now thatís disappointing, but most of Disneyís
direct-to-video sequels follow that episodic
extra-adventure structure, so it wasnít really
a surprise.
What was a surprise though and what was far
more than just disappointing, was the sequelís
unraveling of the core messages of the first
film and really everything that made that
movie so good.
In the first film, Mulan was a strong and
self-sufficient character.
She still retains most of those qualities
in this sequel, but the story around her has
shifted in a way that ridiculously downplays
those strengths and her experiences.
One of the things that I always found refreshing
about the first movie, even as a kid, was
that the focus was on Mulan.
Her relationship with Shang was definitely
present, but it didnít define her and definitely
wasnít the focus of the movie.
Mulan II flips it around and makes it almost
the entire focus.
The story is far less compelling as a result
and then the new characters and arranged marriage
subplot get thrown into the mix like a heavy-handed
add-on, only further drawing the focus away
from Mulan.
And then thereís Mushu.
He was one of my favorite parts of the first
movie and just like with the story focus,
almost nothing of what made him so good in
that movie remains.
The most obvious and immediately apparent
difference is the voice casting.
Even though almost every single other actor
reprised their role in this sequel (which
is kind of unheard of in the direct-to-video
world), Eddie Murphy did not.
He was instead replaced with Mark Moseley,
who does do a decent Eddie Murphy impression,
but Mushu does sound noticeably off.
But itís not the voice that bothers me here
ñ itís what they do with his character.
I would argue that of all the characters in
the first Mulan, Mushu was the one with the
most substantial character arc.
He begins that story as a disgraced former
guardian who selfishly and deceitfully takes
on the Mulan assignment in the hopes of restoring
his guardianship.
Over the course of the movie though, he grows
to care about Mulan and becomes more and more
selfless in his actions, putting their friendship
above all else.
In Mulan II, all of that gets undone in a
split second.
Mushu regresses to a point thatís far more
selfish than he ever was in the first movie.
Heís obnoxious and spiteful and mean-spirited
and it just feels extraordinarily out of character
for no reason other than to create conflict
in the movie.
And really, itís not just Mushu who feels
off.
Shang is really angry all the time and constantly
flies off the handle for no reason.
The Emperor is kind of aggressive and mean.
Even Mulan takes on this docile, subdued quality
that just doesnít feel in-line with the first
movie.
Mulan II isnít atrocious.
The animationís fine for a direct-to-video
sequel, the songs are okay, itís nice having
almost all of the original voice cast back.
Itís definitely watchable.
But something is just very wrong with it.
With all of the character arcs and thematic
elements that it completely undoes, it honestly
feels like the writers never even bothered
to actually watch the first movie.
Alright, letís talk about the pros and cons.
The only real pro for me is the returning
voice cast.
Eddie Murphy is the obvious and noticeable
exception, but really everybody else reprises
their roles.
It was a big deal to get Ming-Na Wen and BD
Wong back as Mulan and Shang, but basically
all of the minor characters are back too.
Yao, Ling, Chien-Po, the Emperor, Fa-Zhou,
Fa-LiÖ itís honestly pretty impressive.
Direct-to-video sequels are usually lucky
to get one or two actors back and somehow,
six years later with a really subpar script,
Mulan II managed to get all but one back.
On the con side, the biggest issue was the
story.
First off, the plot itself was completely
unnecessary and does nothing to justify the
need for a sequel.
Itís your average tacked-on adventure that
really only barely connects to the first film.
Thatís disappointing, but the frustrating
part is the massive shift in story focus.
Mulan was, unsurprisingly, about Mulan.
It wasnít about the side characters, it wasnít
about Mulan and Shangís romance.
Mulan II barely has the Mulan we know and
love.
Sheís pushed aside by new characters and
when she is on screen, the focus is almost
constantly on her relationship with Shang.
Not only that, but itís mostly generic, dull
relationship drama that all but reverses the
messages put forth by the first film.
The second con is Mushu.
I canít tell you how much it pains me to
put Mushu in the cons cause he was one of
my favorite parts of the 1998 film.
But heís barely recognizable here.
Sure, he looks the same, but everything else
is different.
Like I mentioned in the pros, Eddie Murphy
didnít return for this film, so Mushuís
instead voiced by Mark Moseley.
He does an admittedly good Eddie Murphy impression,
but you can tell itís not him.
Believe it or not though, thatís not the
reason Mushuís barely recognizable here.
All of his character development from the
first film gets undone here in an instant.
The regression is out of nowhere and not really
believable, plus it turns Mushu into a petulant
and spiteful character, which makes most of
his humor not very funny this time around.
Before I give you my rating and recommendations,
I want to remind you that if you’re interested
in buying Mulan II or any of the films I mention
today, I do have affiliate links for all of
them in the description below.
I get a small commission from anything you
buy using one of my links, so I’d really appreciate
if you’d use them if you’re in the market
for any of these movies.
Iím gonna give Mulan II 2 out of 5 paws and
thatís incredibly generous.
Itís a low 2 paws, but knowing how bad some
of the other Disney DTVs are, I couldnít
bring myself to go lower.
This is a very disappointing movie and it
feels like the writers never even watched
the first film.
I would recommend Mulan II really only to
Disney completionists.
If youíre trying to watch all of Disneyís
movies, then youíre gonna have to come across
this one at some point.
But, I honestly canít even recommend this
one to fans of Mulan.
Itís a big disappointment and a huge step
down, plus it doesnít add anything to the
story or the characters, so youíre honestly
not missing out on anything other than extreme
disappointment and frustration.
If you liked Mulan II, Iíve obviously gotta
recommend Mulan.
Itís miles better than this sequel, so honestly
if you hated this one, I would still recommend
Mulan.
Itís got a great story, strong characters,
an entertaining tonal balance, and some wonderful
messages.
If you want to check out a Disney direct-to-video
sequel thatís actually good, you should watch
The Lion King 2: Simbaís Pride.
Itís actually directed by the same guy who
directed this one, but donít let that dissuade
you.
It offers a worthwhile story, some nice animation
and songs, and perhaps most importantly, is
a fitting thematic successor to the original.
And if you want another family film with an
arranged marriage subplot, you might want
to check out Corpse Bride.
Itís a stop-motion animated film thatís
a bit grim and gloomy at times, but ultimately
a very entertaining movie.
Alright, a couple questions for you guys.
Number one: Have you seen Mulan II?
If so, whatíd you think of it?
And number two: Is the absence of a key cast
member in a sequel a deal-breaker for you?
Be sure to leave your answers in the comments
below so we can get a discussion going.
Alright, so if you got some enjoyment, insight,
or information out of this review, Iíd appreciate
it if youíd hit that like button.
And, if you havenít done so already, please
hit subscribe while youíre at it, so you
can see more videos like this.
Till next time, this has been Alyssa with
Mainely Movies: The way life should be.

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