How To Train Your Dragon

Directors: Dean DeBlois/Chris Sanders

Notable Actors (Voice): Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Rating: PG

Review:  Alright, so I’ve already revealed I’m a sucker for animated children’s movies.  So how did How to Train Your Dragon hold up to the other juggernauts like Up and Toy Story? Proudly I can admit it held its own, and was an extremely enjoyable adventure once again suitable for adults just as well as kids.  I can’t really come up with a single problem in this movie, and personally I believe it can stand up against the greatness that Up delivered on-screen.  The story wasn’t lost in the adventure and vice versa, plus the whole movie didn’t get lost in trying to be an appealing kids movie, which makes it able to be enjoyed by all demographics.  It was also a surprisingly deep story, being just as enjoyable as some of the best dramas of the year.  Not to mention the 3D was gorgeous, but I skipped on splurging for the IMAX 3D.  Chalk up another win for the animated genre, and get ready for an adventure that will make you wish this fantasy film were actually a reality.

The story takes place on a small island inhabited by a Viking tribe, who happen to have a pesky dragon problem that proves difficult to deal with.  The clan leader Stoick (Butler) is the strongest of them all, leading them into battle and giving everything for the tribe.  His son Hiccup (Baruchel) on the other hand couldn’t be more of the opposite.  His best fit in the tribe is staying with the blacksmith Gobber (Ferguson) and repairing the weapons as the Vikings wage battle outside.  Hiccup wants nothing more than to be part of the tribe and impress one of the young female warrior hopefuls, Astrid (Ferrera).  But when Hiccup sneaks out and injures one of the most notorious dragons and has it primed for the killing, he realizes he cannot finish the deed.  He instead unties his captured and wounded foe and studies it, while taking care of him and finding out interesting dragon habits.  A strong bond grows between the two unlikely companions, and Hiccup is able to train the dragon as he would a pet dog.  Except this pet dog can fly and breathe fire.  But when Hiccup’s father enters him in Dragon Training, can he finally prove to the tribe he deserves to be a warrior and win their acceptance?  Or try instead a different method of subduing the beasts that won’t hurt them and risk having his secret relationship revealed?  Either way, Hiccup is in for the challenge of his life, and has one shot to become the Viking he’s always wanted to be.

“Heel boy, heel”

First off the voice acting was perfect.  Jay Baruchel continues his hot streak of appearances as the main character Hiccup and Gerard Butler finally gets his name attached to a decent movie after a slew of garbage, playing his father Stoick.  Obviously I can’t really comment on performances because it was all just voice acting, but all the vocal performances fit their characters in the best way possible.  Ferguson was hilarious as Gobber, and provided the best one-liners and comedic dialogue of the film.  All the other kids had their funny lines of the film, voiced by Hill, Wiig, Miller, and Mintz-Plasse.  It was a great combination of personalities, even if they were just voices.  And again Baruchel’s character is the awkward and average type, so I’m just afraid he’ll be type cast over and over again in that same role.  I really like him as an actor and don’t want him to turn into a Cera-like actor who always plays the same character (except Scott Pilgrim vs. The World may restore my faith in Cera himself).

I also thought the story was carried out with so much skill.  For a children’s movie, How to Train Your Dragon has so much depth in the story that the dramatic elements had me floored, and more importantly kept me emotionally invested the entirety of the film.  It got you to care for an animated character on a level that makes him seem human and makes you completely forget everything was made on a computer.  Life was brought to the entire island and it’s inhabitants, instead of just watching an obvious cartoon.  This was also helped by the whole 3D experience, which made it look so incredibly awe-inspiring.  You could see every detail on the characters down to the minute hairs on the arms of every Viking.  You could see every single hair of Stoick’s beard flowing in the wind.  I honestly forgot I was watching an animated film.  When the movie was over, I almost had to take a second to snap back into reality and remember that dragons aren’t real and can’t be ridden by their owner (sadly).

This movie was so good I would pay to see it again.  Parents: if you have children I strongly urge you to take them to the film because you will get just as much enjoyment from this film as they will.  If you don’t have kids, screw it, go anyway.  Find an excuse to go.  Babysit some kids for the day and take them.  Borrow a niece or a nephew if you feel weird going to a children’s movie without any children.  I don’t encourage stealing a child for a few hours, but do what you can legally to get yourself to the nearest theater.  How to Train Your Dragon demonstrates superb story telling, creates a breathtaking atmosphere, and keeps you laughing the entire time.  I know this sounds a little like my review of Up, but all the same elements that made Up so good are prevalent here so they have to be repeated.  How to Train Your Dragon is totally different though, having more action and danger than Up had.  DreamWorks are really giving Pixar a run for their money with their latest film, and I think How to Train Your Dragon is the best DreamWorks release to date.  Better than Shrek, yup, I said it.

Final Rating: 9 times I actually got to enjoy Gerard Butler out of 10

Even kids movies use the oh so common walk-away-from-explosion shot.

-Natobomb

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About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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One Response to How To Train Your Dragon

  1. Pingback: 2010: Recap of the Good, the Bad, and Everything Else | Cinema Scrutiny

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