Mulan parents guide

Mulan Parent Guide

Beautifully shot, well acted, and overflowing with positive messages, this film brings honor to its studio.

Overall A-

Disney+: Threatened by the invading Rourans, the Chinese Emperor issues a conscription order, forcing every family to provide one man to serve in the army. Concerned by her father's age and disability, Hua Mulan takes his place and goes to war to save her country and her family.

Release date September 4, 2020

Violence C+
Sexual Content A-
Profanity A
Substance Use A

Why is Mulan rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Mulan PG-13 for sequences of violence.

Run Time: 115 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma) is concerned about his daughter, Mulan (Crystal Rao). The child is fearless, with boundless energy and powerful qi (life force) but the aging war hero recognizes that these traits are unwelcome in a girl. As she approaches marriageable age (now played by Yifei Liu), he tells her, “Your qi is strong, Mulan. But qi is for warriors; not daughters. It is time for you to hide your gift away, to silence its voice.” Always dutiful, Mulan accepts this “conceal, don’t feel” advice, bows to her father’s counsel, and prepares for a meeting with the matchmaker (Pei-Pei Cheng).

Despite her best intentions, Mulan fails to impress the matchmaker. Convinced she is a source of dishonor to her family, she is further disheartened when the emperor’s representatives order one man from each family to serve in the imperial army and defend China from the invading Rourans and the witch (Li Gong) who aids them. Knowing her father is too disabled to survive a war, Mulan steals his horse, sword, and armor, and flees into the night to take his place in the military.

Disney’s live action remakes of its classic films have spanned the gamut from almost identical recreations (The Lion King) to heavily rewritten stories (Dumbo). Mulan falls somewhere between the two, with a broadly similar narrative arc (girl pretends to be a boy and saves China) but substantial differences in tone and story. If you’re expecting a live action frame-by-frame reproduction of the 1998 animated movie, you will be disappointed. There’s no wisecracking dragon, no catchy soundtrack (the biggest loss), no Captain Shang, and no comedy. This production should be assessed on its merits, as a war drama with themes as strong as its battle scenes.

Parents will be enthusiastic about the messages in Mulan. At the completion of their training, the young warriors pledge fidelity to three pillars of virtue: loyalty, bravery, and truth. The importance of these three virtues is repeatedly stressed throughout the film, with honesty receiving particular emphasis. Also introduced as a cardinal virtue is devotion to family. Having family love and loyalty put front and center in a major film is something that parents are going to celebrate.

The power of girls and women – our need for it and our tendency to fear and suppress it – is the principal theme that undergirds the entire story. Mulan’s gifts are scorned and treated with suspicion by her community. The witch also has the same gifts: “The more power I showed, the more I was crushed,” she tells Mulan as she tries to persuade her to join forces. Mulan’s attributes – her strong qi, her indomitable courage, her sense of honor, and her strategic intelligence – are vindicated over the course of her journey and are clearly established as imitation-worthy for kids and teens in the audience.

Parents might be concerned about showing Mulan to their youngsters, given its PG-13 rating. The film does have too much battlefield violence for young kids but it is on the light end of the PG-13 range and the violence is neither gory nor gratuitous. Any kid or tween who enjoys Marvel superhero movies will not find the content in this movie too frightening or unsettling.

The biggest question that hangs over this production is whether it’s worth coughing up the $30 on top of a Disney+ subscription. My answer to that is an unequivocal “Yes”. Mulan brings honor to its studio. It is a superb film, beautifully shot, solidly acted, and overflowing with positive examples for our kids. The coronavirus epidemic forestalled its theatrical release, forcing Disney to come up with another way to recoup its investment in the film. When we pay for movies of this quality, we encourage Hollywood studios to make more outstanding family films. We are voting with our wallets. Let’s make that vote count.

Directed by Niki Caro. Starring Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, and Jason Scott Lee. Running time: 115 minutes. Theatrical release September 4, 2020. Updated

Watch the trailer for Mulan

Rating & Content Info

Why is Mulan rated PG-13? Mulan is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sequences of violence.

Violence: There are scenes of possession in which a witch merges with unwitting civilians: these scenes are not graphic. There are repeated scenes of armed conflict in towns, forts and on the battlefield. People are pierced with arrows, stabbed with swords and knives, and killed in other ways. None of the battlefield scenes are bloody or graphic. There is a scene of a town burning. There are balletic shots of martial arts conflict. A woman tells a man she could tear him to pieces. People threaten others with death. There is mention of execution as a form of military punishment. There is a scene of dead men lying amidst the piled up helmets of the dead. People are caught in an avalanche.
Sexual Content: There are a couple of bathing scenes where men or women may be shown from the back or above the shoulders. A man mentions “buxom women” and kissing.
Profanity: None.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.

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Mulan Parents' Guide

What role does duty play in Mulan’s life? What does duty mean to you? Do you have anything in your life that commands your loyalty?

The four pillars of virtue in the movie are Loyalty, Bravery, Truth, and Devotion to Family. What do you think are the most important character traits? How would you define virtue? How do you act on these values in your own life? Is there any way in which you can improve on living your values?

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong are calling for a boycott of the movie because the lead actress has made comments on social media that support the Chinese administration. Do you think an actor’s offs-screen behavior should affect how we treat a movie?

BBC: Why Disney’s latest reboot is facing boycott calls


Loved this movie? Try these books…

This film comes from an ancient Chinese legend which has been retold in several different publications. Robert D. San Souci has published it in Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior. Song Nan Zhang’s version is entitled The Ballad of Mulan. And Li Jian has published Mulan: A Story in Chinese and English. All three versions are suitable for children in elementary school.

Tweens looking for a retelling of the story will likely enjoy Cameron Dokey’s Wild Orchid: A Retelling of “The Battle of Mulan”.

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Mulan movie is September 4, 2020. Here are some details…

Related home video titles:

The 1998 animated version of Mulan adds comedy to a version of the story that is suitable for kids.

Princess Merida learns hones her battle skills – and learns that some things are more important than fighting in Pixar’s animated feature Brave.

Older viewers who want another action movie set in China can watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Balletic combat scenes set amid lush scenery make for a riveting viewing experience.

Compassion leads the Amazon, Diana, to the Western Front of World War I in order to bring an end to war in Wonder Woman.

Women have long struggled to be accepted as equals. Their fight for the right to vote is depicted in Suffragette.