At one time, “live-action Disney” was the most fearsome phrase in the cinematic lexicon. It’s time to update the dread with the slightly longer “live-action Disney remake.” Where does the animated Mulan rank in the Disney canon? Of the post-Little Mermaid and pre-A Bug’s Life animated features, Disney’s tale of a young woman masquerading as a male warrior to save her family was by far the boldest, not only in terms of visual design, but also because it was the first of the studio’s features to scratch the surface of feminist thinking. Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North County) helms the remake, and like Hidden Crotch and Tiger Dragon, hers is a flying-people picture for audiences who would never go near films like A Chinese Ghost Story or The Bride With White Hair. The rapid-fire editing in those films is bracing and seamlessly cut together, pulling audiences into the action. Compare them to the overcut chicken chase that first acquaints Mulan to the audience, or the overall flaccid structure of the action scenes — or better yet, don’t. The color design is garishly Disney, but what works in Technicolor animation comes off sharp and brittle when applied to live-action storytelling. And it’s one thing for a film to be designed in the manner of a cartoon, another when everything looks like an A-ticket ride at Disneyland. Better than Burton’s Dumbo, but what isn’t? (2020) — Scott Marks
This movie is not currently in theaters.