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by Jim Wunderle


Directed by: Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft

Starring: The voices of Ming-Na Wen, Lea Solonga, Eddie Murphy, B.D. Wong, Donnie Osmond, Pat Morita

Rated: G

I don't know what the executives at Disney are thinking. Haven't they been following the profound statements of televangelist-turned-presidential-candidate-turned-tele-loon-vangelist Pat Robertson? The city of Orlando has all but opened itself up for hurricanes, tidal waves, earthquakes, terrorism ... even a comet strike, because of some city-sanctioned parade held recently.

The whole thing seemed to have stemmed from the fact that the Disney company has the audacity to extend the same treatment and benefits to each and every one of its employees. Somehow this borders on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Well, this time Disney may have gone way too far, and I'm anxious to see what Robertson, et al., have to say about a kids' movie that features heathens praying to their ancestors, chanting and women in the military.

On second thought, due to their boycott against Disney, none of these folks will actually be able to see the film. I'm sure this won't stop a great many from decrying it anyway.

As for "Mulan," the film in question, I found it to be one of Disney's more engrossing animated features of late, mostly due to its source material. The animation is great, but starting with a great story is always a wise choice.

The Chinese legend of Mulan is nearly 2,000 years old. Dozens of poems have been written about her over the centuries, and she has inspired a great number of plays, operas and paintings.

The story is this: Mulan's aging father is conscripted for military service. He served in his younger years but is now too ill. Her only brother is much too young, so Mulan disguises herself as a man and goes in her father's place. She becomes a hero and is only later discovered to be female.

Disney's version starts with this basic premise and adds some tried-and-true Disney touches. Mulan's family is trying to marry her off, but she just doesn't seem to cut it as a young debutante. She's very upset about the whole affair, not wanting to disgrace her family name.

When the call-up occurs, she knows her father is too ill, so she steals his armor and goes off, with the help of a magical little dragon named Mushu (voiced by Eddie Murphy), to try her hand in the army. In this Disney version, she not only conquers the leader of the invading Huns but saves the emperor as well. She also finally meets the right man.

Along the way there's enough interaction between Mulan and Mushu the dragon, as well as a few spoofs on the not-so-pretty side of men in the army, to keep the younger crowd laughing.

There aren't as many musical numbers here as we've grown accustomed to, but I actually found that to be a plus. Mostly Oriental flavored, there isn't an "Under the Sea" or "Circle of Life," but the Stevie Wonder song, "True to Your Heart," will surely hit the charts and sell the CD.

The musical numbers aside, Jerry Goldsmith's original score is beautiful.

Unless you are offended by women in the military and Chinese religious references, "Mulan" is the best family fare of the summer, with enough patented Disney tricks to keep the kids happy and a good enough story to keep us old folks involved, as well.

(Jim Wunderle works at Associated Video Producers and is a Springfield free-lance writer and musician.)

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