Parents' Guide to

Mulan (2020)

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Martial arts epic is more intense, violent than original.

Movie PG-13 2020 115 minutes
Mulan (2020) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 58 parent reviews

age 10+

Mulan is a legendary Chinese folk tale that was reworked from an American perspective by a white director for this film. The movie introduces "Chi" as a signifier of a gender dyad, where only sons can wield it, while daughters risk shame, dishonor, and exile. Males who can wield chi can bring honor to their families by becoming warriors, while daughters can only do so through marriage. The movie also adds more characters. For example, Xianniang, a woman exiled for her ability to wield powerful Chi, is a character who is a tragic version of Hua Mulan. Through several battles with Hua Mulan, she pushes Hua Mulan to stay true to her heart, to release her Chi better, and to complete her character's growth. This is one of the important messages the movie wants to convey; only by being true to oneself can one truly realize one's potential. These plot additions are a challenge to patriarchal society and traditional gender roles. However, the film is missing a reflection on intersectionality, with no mention of race or social class. Overall, Mulan is a feminist film that encourages the personal empowerment of women. It reinforces the understanding of gender stereotypes of male superiority over female and demonstrates how difficult it is to break gender role stereotypes. If it's for the gender aspect, this movie is recommended. But if one wants to learn more about Asian culture, then there are other better choices.
age 7+

Absolutely horrendous

Absolutely horrendous they said things were cut to make it more realistic and yet they have witches and Magic yes they think we the audience are stupid enough to think them using Tai Chi is a good cultural representation but it is just Magic and doesn't actually hold any real cultural background and if you don't know Tai Chi is more of a spiritual energy not a force or Magic but oh well I don't think they could have ever done anything right with this film it is just all garbage

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (58 ):
Kids say (114 ):

Powerful performances and intense battle sequences make this retelling of Mulan a more mature adaptation, stressing the story's themes of female empowerment and family devotion. Although New Zealander director Niki Caro isn't of Chinese descent, she's spent much of her career focusing on women's stories (Whale Rider, Zookeeper's Wife, North Country), so Mulan fits in with her filmography of strong female characters overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. And kudos to the filmmakers for making sure there was no white-washing in the cast; the ensemble is made up of internationally renowned ethnically Chinese actors from mainland China, Hong Kong, the United States, and New Zealand (where, along with China, the movie was filmed). As with all of her movies, Caro highlights in Mulan the way that women have always had to fight to be taken seriously or to be considered as capable as men. Liu is well cast as the young warrior woman in the making who wants, more than anything, to make her father proud.

Fans of the original should know that this isn't a musical (though instrumental bits of the animated movie's soundtrack do show up in the score), and there's no wise-cracking talking dragon sidekick. But there are plenty of small callbacks to the earlier film, from the jade comb Mulan wears to the matchmaker's to the lucky Cri-Kee, here transformed into a human character named Cricket who's still quite lucky. Even Mulan's original voice, Ming-Na Wen, gets a cameo. There are plenty more, but it's fun to discover them while you watch. It may be hard for the character's youngest fans, but this version really isn't for really little kids. It has lots of potentially disturbing action violence, as well as a few scenes in which it looks like beloved characters are injured or near death. There's not a ton of humor in this version, although there are a couple of funny scenes, like Mulan's disastrous introduction to her potential match's mother and, later, a silly conversation between a disguised Mulan and her fellow soldiers about "what a man wants." A new witch character, Xianniang (expertly played by Gong Li) is frightening but also fascinating and unabashedly feminist. And this movie makes Mulan's love interest a peer, rather than her commanding officer, which is a healthier power dynamic. Ultimately, those looking for their favorite movie in live-action form will need to reset their expectations. But audiences open to a more intense retelling will appreciate this adaptation for what it is: an intense tale of a young woman busting gender stereotypes to lead men in battle and bring honor to her family, village, and empire.

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