Movie Details

MULAN

Based on the Chinese folk heroine Hua Mulan. When the country is threatened by invaders, a young girl defends her father by sneaking away from home and dressing up as a man to join an all-male army where she eventually assumes a historically critical role in defending the nation in a time of war.

Language: Cantonese
Subtitle: NA
Classification: PG
Release Date: 26 Nov 2009
Genre: Action / Adventure / Historical
Running Time: 1 Hour 53 Minutes
Distributor: SHAW ORGANIZATION
Cast: Jaycee Chan, Hu Jun, Chen Kun, Vicki Zhao Wei, Xu Jiao
Director: Jingle Ma
Format: NA

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Review
Writer: Ezekiel Lee Zhiang Yang

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Watch this if you liked: “Joan Of Arc”, “The Lady General Hua Mulan”

Disney days like these, it's hard to get a good adaptation that satisfies the senses and still educates the young. It's a good thing then that the oft-told legend of ancient woman warrior Fa Mu Lan is in many ways, a wonderful fairy tale. The subject matter (a girl who goes to war as a man in disguise to keep her enlisted father safe at home) has produced some wonderful films; Shaw Brother's 1964 huangmei classic "Lady General Hua Mulan" and also the American animation treatment ten years ago, "Mulan" come to mind. For this Jingle Ma Hong Kong addition, we're very lucky to have the talented Vicki Zhao a.k.a. Zhao Wei (from the "Red Cliff" movies) leading the lineup in more ways than one. It was always going to be a battle to tell a story as tough as Mu Lan's.

The 33-year-old China-born actress really knows how to put on a great show. Blessed with big, bright eyes and a soft demeanour but ever-willing to do some bruising ass-kicking in recent films, her rise to stardom is probably just as spectacular as her titular character if you go cross-century. However, her screen appeal is probably the singular driving force behind this 2009 effort as the whole project seems like a rush job (note remarkably uneventful opening sequence) with uneven focus and excessive emo downtime (intrusive violin score). "Mulan" is epic only in costume and setting, but little else, especially if we're looking for a memorable sword-and-sandal adventure.

While Vicki Zhao may win over enough feminist sympathisers with this performance, the movie does her no justice by opting for the easy way out; it merely skips along past the powerful turns in the movie, investing in teary scenes when the audience have yet to be convincingly let in on the magnitude of her sacrifice, or war, or love for that matter. Her pairing with Chen Kun ("Painted Skin") cannot be truly appreciated because the romance between Mu Lan and fellow rising soldier Wen Tai is brief and underdeveloped. As for the rest of the cast, Jaycee Chan ("Invisible Target") gets to play a blundering footman in yet another "likeable loser" role, while Hu Jun ("Everlasting Regret") is the one who ends up having a meatier turn as the villainous general. The prominently announced part of "CJ7" tomboy Xu Jiao as the young Mu Lan is only a brief, token show while the bizarre appearance of a Caucasian character (A Russian singer called Vitas) is also questionable.

To summarise, 2009's "Mulan" isn't an essential watch, though it does have a few "Joan Of Arc" moments. It's best remembered as a good vehicle for Vicki Zhao's rising star. Watch out for her in the upcoming "14 Blades" opposite Donnie Yen.

Cinema Online, 25 November 2009
   
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Classification
Effective 15 July 2011
G - Suitable for all ages
PG - Suitable for all ages, but parents should provide guidance to their young
PG13 - Suitable for persons aged 13 and above, but parental guidance is advised for children below 13
NC16 - Suitable for persons aged 16 years and above
M18 - Suitable for persons aged 18 years and above
R21 - Restricted to persons aged 21 and above only
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