When the Huns attack China, one male member of each family must enlist in the Emperor’s army to stop an impending invasion.
Bearing the scars of an earlier war, the honourable Mr Fa hobbles forward to collect his summons. His only child, a daughter named Mulan, begs the Imperial officer to spare her father. But she inadvertently brings shame upon her household by speaking her mind in the presence of men.
Society demands that Mulan be meek, forbearing and silent, but she is none of these things. Cutting her hair and wearing her father’s battle armour, she sets off to enlist in his place. When Mulan’s family learns what she has done, they’re terrified because it’ll mean instant death if she’s discovered. The ancestors send Mushu (voice of Eddie Murphy), a small dragon, to watch over Mulan and bring her home safely.
Mulan finds herself in the midst of an unruly group of men led by the young captain Shang. Encountering difficulties with every aspect of her training and on the verge of being sent home, it’s only when Mulan starts finding creative ways to do things that she discovers an inner strength. This takes her from the back of the pack and transforms her into one of the finest soldiers China has ever seen.
Mulan singlehandedly defeats a vast army of Huns. But after being wounded in battle, she’s exposed as a woman and loses all credibility as a result. Refusing to give up or give in, she follows the army towards the Imperial City hoping to warn people about an impending attack. No-one believes her until the Emperor himself is kidnapped.
All hope seems lost until Mulan devises a plan that helps the Emperor, defeats the Huns and saves China.
War; gender discrimination; male chauvinism
Mulan has some violence. For example:
- Mulan’s grandmother accidentally causes a major smash while crossing a street with her eyes closed.
- Mulan punches another recruit, which then triggers a brawl between the men.
- There are numerous fight scenes during training where people are hit, grabbed, kicked, shot at and so on.
- A wayward rocket hits the tent of the Emperor’s adviser. He comes out singed and shell-shocked.
- Mulan’s horse doesn’t like the dragon Mushu and is constantly trying to trample or get rid of him.
- Mulan is sliced by a sword and, after saving Shang from an avalanche, collapses on the ground.
- The Hun army is buried alive by an avalanche.
- It’s implied that a man is shot with an arrow, although his death isn’t shown.
- Numerous bodies lie on a snowy field on the outskirts of a burned-out town.
- The Huns kidnap the Emperor and try to make him bow before them. When he refuses, one Hun tries to attack the Emperor with his sword, saying that he will cut the Emperor into pieces. Shang blocks the attack just in time, and Mulan and another soldier rescue the emperor.
- The Huns chase Mulan through the palace. She fights one on the roof, outmanoeuvring him with her fan. Mushu helps to send the Hun into the fireworks storage shed, where it seems that the Hun is killed in the huge explosion.
Mulan has some sexual references. For example, some soldiers seem to be talking about ‘size’ while bathing naked in a pond.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Mulan shows some use of substances. For example, a character smokes a cigarette.
Nudity and sexual activity
Mulan has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Mulan bathes in a pond but has to get out quickly when some soldiers decide to join her. She is hidden behind her horse but her bare legs can be seen and nudity is implied. In the water she holds her arm across her chest when the men get too close.
- Mushu has to bite someone’s bottom to create a distraction so Mulan can leave.
- A soldier stands on a rock, seen from behind. The camera angle is through his bare legs but he’s facing the others. The scene implies full frontal nudity.
- Three soldiers sit naked on a rock. They’re in shadows so nothing is seen. Some naked soldiers run past. Only their bare chests are seen.
Mulan has some infrequent name-calling, including ‘stupid’ and ‘insubordinate ruffians’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Mulan (1998) is an animated adventure based loosely on the historical legend of a young Chinese girl who pretended to be a boy and won a great victory for China. Although the plot is embellished, the story itself is inspirational and offers many powerful examples of courage and resourcefulness. Featuring a powerful female role model, Mulan is a wonderful family movie.
These are the main messages from Mulan:
- The rarest and most beautiful spirits are the ones that flourish in adversity.
- Wars are not necessarily won by strength or by the size of an army but rather by the courage and ingenuity of the soldiers themselves.
- Just one resourceful person can save a nation and become a legend.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include courage, determination, integrity, teamwork and honour.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the consequences of:
- running away instead of discussing problems
- using violence as a way to sort out conflict
- pretending to be something that you’re not
- thinking that women are worthless and shouldn’t have a voice.