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Saturday, March 20, 2010

"How to Train Your Dragon" is the first great family film of the year.

How to Train Your Dragon
review by Brent Sweeting

3 out of 4 stars

With great 3D animation and effects,  lovable characters, fun fast paced action, and a story and dialogue that you will enjoy just as much as your kids, (provided they are old enough to handle a pg-13 animated film), "How to Train Your Dragon: IMAX 3D" is a movie that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Hiccup, a young Viking, lives in a village that is constantly at war with dragons. His father is
the head of the village and the chief dragon killer. Everything in the village revolves around killing dragons, and Hiccup just doesn't live up to the expectations of the village...or his father. Small scrawny, and especially clumsy, he couldn't be a bigger disappointment if he tried. There is nothing Hiccup wants more than to be a big brave dragon slayer. Better with his brains than his brawn, Hiccup devises a mechanical weapon to trap and kill the most dangerous dragon of all. Once he finds himself face to face with the helpless dragon, Hiccup isn't sure he can go through with it, and a relationship develops between the two that will change the village forever.

You probably already noticed that the word "kill" comes up a lot in this review. Be prepared that it comes up a lot in this movie as well. Any kid that understands the concept of hunting, as well as can handle a movie where someone wears part of a viking bra as a hat and some slight adult language, is probably fine in this movie. But if you have small children in your house, especially any that are prone to nightmares, you might want to check this out alone before bringing the kids.

The dragons themselves all start out fairly viscous, but some of them become equally lovable as well. The best parts of the movie all feature the central dragon, nicknamed "Toothless" by Hiccup, who is as much like a family dog or cat as he is a fierce force of nature. One of the most fun parts about Toothless is how subtly familiar he looks and acts to a character from another movie. "How to Train Your Dragon" is directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders who previously directed "Lilo and Stitch", and there is definitely more than a passing similarity between Stitch and Toothless in both their behavior and their design.

The design of the dragons is amazing. The different breeds range not just in size and shape, but in temperament too. The 3D style animation design is all top notch, but when combined with actual IMAX 3D projection technology, the dragons and the Vikings all really come to life on the screen. There were a few parts where the Vikings mouth movement seemed slightly off from their words, but aside from that, the look of the movie was fantastic.

Speaking of the words of the Vikings, Dreamworks has assembled an all-star comedic cast to fill out the roles of the Vikings. Gerard Butler is immediately recognizable as Hiccups father Stoick, but some of the other cast take a minute or two to recognize. Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse reunite for the first time since "Suberbad" as Snotlout and Fishlegs, two of the kids in a Dragon Slaying course. America Ferrara (Ugly Betty) joins them as Astrid, the most desired girl in the village, and Craig Ferguson is the missing-limbed blacksmith and mentor to Hiccup. Jay Baruchel, voices the lead character Hiccup. Baruchel has done a number of comedic projects lately,  including the recently released "She's Out of My League", but he really earned his stripes as Danger, the mentally-challenged wannabe-boxer from "Million Dollar Baby".

"How to Train Your Dragon" is not a perfect animated movie.  It is definitely a formula driven plot, and if you swapped out the settings and characters, it's a story you have heard many times before. The themes of the movie are about learning to understand things we are afraid of rather than jumping to animosity, as well as parents really taking the time to understand and trust their children. That said, it is still one of the better tellings of this story, and should be on everyone's list of movies to see this year. Do yourself a favor and pay the extra money to see it in 3D; you will be glad you did.

(Links below will give you more info on the book series this movie is based on)

How to Train Your Dragon Book 1 How to Train Your Dragon Book 2: How to Be a PirateHow to Train Your Dragon Book 3: How to Speak DragoneseHow to Train Your Dragon Book 2: How to Be a Pirate

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with your review and certainly though that the 3-D version was better. And its about time that dragons get a good rep.