Last Christmas, my Geek Guy bought a Netflix subscription for my parents. We LOVE Netflix. From Louie to The X-Files, we're always watching something. Unfortunately, I have discovered a dark side to the service- Disney sequels. There's a sizable batch of 'em to choose from, but one rises above the others in its badness.
I'm here to tell you that Mulan II might be the worst thing on Netflix.
I wanted to like it. I really did. The original Mulan is legendary- great songs, beautiful animation, and a heroine that defies gender expectations. Mulan herself was a fantastic role model for young women... until 2004's Mulan II. I haven't stopped seething for 24 hours.
Here are a few reasons why you should stay far, far away from this train wreck:
1. Mushu is suddenly a jerk. - Mushu, the comedic (and tiny) guardian dragon, was a loyal friend to Fa Mulan in the original. He offered advice. He protected her. Heck, he defeated the film's big bad! Mushu's efforts weren't always perfect, but he was still a good guy.
In Mulan II, Mushu is unforgivably sour. He doesn't want to give up his cushy pedestal when Fa Mulan and Li Shang get married. So, he decides to break them up. Mushu spends almost the entire movie causing arguments between lovers for his own gain. This not only hurts his friend, it also jeopardizes the safety of all of China. JERK!
He is just the worst. Well, almost, because...
2. Li Shang is also a jerk. - One could make a solid case for Shang being the hottest Disney guy ever. He's got a slammin' bod, but he's also brave, loyal, a family man, and an incredible singer. The original Mulan had audiences wanting Shang and Mulan to be together. I should have hated Mushu for wanting to break up this darling pair.
However, Li Shang, too, has become rotten in the sequel. He has a severe anger management problem, massive trust issues, and just might hate women. Why do I suspect that last part? Well...
3. The morals of the story are directly at odds with the original. - Mulan II tries hard to empower women. It fails. On paper, the plot sounds great: three princesses, betrothed to strangers, get to choose their own path. Sadly, the path they choose is... still marriage. Mulan II tells us, "Ladies, you should be able to choose whichever man you want! ...As long as you still end up with a man!!"
Similarly, Mulan and Shang are kept together despite MAJOR differences. Jerk!Shang still believes in arranged marriage. He yells at women for caring. He yells at men for not caring. He (gasp) won't stop to ask for directions! Fa Mulan- the heroine from the FIRST movie- wouldn't be with this man. Unfortunately, Mulan II seems to consider anything less than lifelong commitment a failure.
Oh, and by the way, when she thinks Shang is dead, Mulan immediately volunteers to marry a stranger for the sake of uniting two kingdoms. You know, 'cause a woman's strongest assets are STILL just her beauty and hand in marriage. Fail.
4. Um... racism? Mulan II's understanding of Chinese culture is... poor, to say the least. There are some gross misunderstandings here about ancestry, the Mongols, peasants' quality of life, gambling, um, how fireworks work...
Weirdest of all, in the end, Shang decides to "combine" two family temples. The ancestor characters FLAT-OUT SAY, "Can he do that? What does that even mean?? WHATEVER!!" Sloppy research, Disney, and kind of offensive.
Oddly, the discomfort doesn't end with Chinese culture. Eddie Murphy isn't the voice of Mushu in Mulan II. A soundalike is. Mark Moseley is white, which wouldn't bother me normally, but the portrayal is... questionable. There are so many cringe-inducing "black" catchphrases that I wanted to mute the TV. It's as if someone bet the script writer money for every time s/he could make the dragon say, "giiiiiiiirrrrlllllll!!!" Yikes.
5. Everyone is bored. - I was shocked to discover that, aside from Mushu, the entire cast of Mulan had returned. Every single character sounds bored or exhausted. The songs are totally uninspired, too. This is tragic, considering the original Mulan had some of the best B-side tracks in Disney history. The entire thing just reeks of contractual obligation.
As if completely emotionless performances and songs weren't bad enough, the characters are DRAWN bored. Here are the protagonists immediately following their wedding:
Dem smiles!! It's like they both need to poop, or like someone's dad is off-screen telling awful dad jokes. Buck up, cardboard couple! You just saved China with the power of MAWWIAGE!!
BONUS: I almost forgot to mention this: Li Shang falls off a cliff, Wile E. Coyote style, and emerges totally unscathed. SERIOUSLY?! I know Disney movies tend to go for less-realistic violence, but are you KIDDING ME??!!! I just can't even-
...I'm starting to think this is all coming across as a wave of pointless negativity. So, allow me to recommend a few Disney sequels that I liked: The Return of Jafar, The Lion King 2 (NOT 1 1/2), and Toy Story 2 and 3. You can skip Mulan II, however- as well as Lilo & Stitch 2, Atlantis 2, Cinderella 2, Pocahontas 2, Kronk's New Groove, and whatever else may pop on to Netflix with the goal of ruining your childhood.
Now, I'd like to hear from YOU, gentle reader. What do you think is the worst thing on Netflix?? Also, feel free to defend Mulan II in the comments below- just remain respectful. :)
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