Friday, November 27, 2009

MULAN - Vicky's Too Hot To Trot

MULAN (war drama)
Cast: Vicki Zhao Wei , Chen Kun, Jaycee Chan, Jun Hu and Jiuzhe Li
Director: Jingle Ma
Time: 112 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: The biggest problem viewers would have with a live-action feature like Mulan is its casting of the hot and sexy Vicki Zhao as the legendary heroine. The animated 1998 Disney version was not as distracting because Mulan looked tomboyish and passable for a drawn character. Here, Zhao looks as if she has wandered into the Mulan set from her recent role in Red Cliff II.

Looking as she does in the battlefield among thousands of sexually-deprived soldiers makes us wonder how she can continue to operate as a woman disguised as warrior...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? You should be familiar with this folklore about a young girl taking the place of her ailing father at the conscription to war. Mulan not only manages to fool her brothers-at-arms, she also manages to rise up the ranks to become a general due to her bravery in battle against the land-grabbing Rourans!

HITS & MISSES: Other than my concern mentioned above, this rendition of the classic by Jingle Ma is passable - and even touching at times. Like the recent war flicks including Red Cliff, Ma's portrayal of war is no less gritty and violent. The fighting scenes hit the right emotional notes.

Zhao's portrayal of Mulan is touching, her beauty notwithstanding. Her Mulan is not a natural-born killer. She agonises over her first kill. The romance between the royal Wentai (Chen Kun) and Mulan is affecting too, given the demanding conditions of the war and their need to be discreet. However, an outdoor bath scene remains the only indication of Mulan's problem about her gender. Ma dismisses it soon after that.

I am also puzzled about the casting of Russian singer Vitas as the Rouran king's servant boy- a blond-haired effeminate-looking guy inviting suggestions of sexual impropriety at the royal tent. Jaycee Chan, however, acquits himself nicely as Mulan's village buddy, Tiger Fei.

THE LOWDOWN: It won't beat the Disney version but still watchable for Vicky Zhao fans.


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