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Making direct-to-DVD sequels of blockbuster titles has become a booming business for Disney Studios. Because all the work of creating characters and conceptualizing art design are already done, recycling the materials and assembling a second story is relatively easy and inexpensive.
Mulan II, a perfect example of this marketing strategy, picks up the tale of the young girl who dressed like a boy and went to war to saved China, right where the last animation concluded. Mulan (again voiced by Ming-Na) has returned to her home and is anxiously awaiting a proposal from her former commander Shang (B.D.Wong also reprises his role). But the handsome warrior hardly has time to pop the question before a letter arrives summoning the couple on a dangerous mission.
Hoping to strengthen the country against her enemies, the Emperor (Pat Morita) is negotiating strategic alliances with a neighboring kingdom. Now he needs an armed guard to safely escort the Princesses Mei, Ting Ting and Su (voiced by Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh and Lauren Tom) across the boarder where they will wed to seal their nations' coalition. Although the idea of arranged marriages sits poorly with the headstrong Mulan, she readily accepts the assignment because of her great loyalty to the crown. Following Shang's lead, the pair enlists the services of their three most trusted friends and fellow soldiers, Yao (Harvey Fierstein), Ling (Gedde Watanabe) and Chien-Po (Jerry Tondo).
Meanwhile Mushu (now voiced by Mark Moseley), who has been basking in the rays of self-importance since he helped Mulan achieve her great success, discovers his status amongst the deceased ancestors will be extinguished the moment his prodigy takes a husband. Suddenly the pint-sized dragon's mind is illuminated with a thousand reasons why Mulan and Shang are all wrong for each other, so he determines to convince his little girl to call off the engagement.
Although Mushu's intentions to cause a break-up are blatant, Mulan's willingness to share her twentieth century, feminist attitudes prove just as effective at sowing seeds of doubt in the hearts of the betrothed princesses. Watering with fortune-cookie-style words of wisdom such as, "my duty is to my heart," Mulan, whether by accident or design, soon has the royals sprouting feelings of discontent.
Parents may also find their sense of disappointment growing as they observe the obvious"girl power" anachronisms and depictions of situational ethics. While other content concerns may seem minimal (they include some moments of peril, threats of violence and non-graphic swordplay), the movie's spirit of rebellion, poor craftsmanship and awkward slapstick humor make an ill-fitting production out of these hand-me-down characters.
Home Video Release Date: 1 February 2004
Mulan II is rated G:
Director: Darrell Rooney, Lynne Southerland
Cast: Ming-Na, B.D. Wong, Pat Morita
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Website: Official site for Mulan II.