Review: How to Train Your Dragon

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Posted April 3rd, 2010 at 11:00 am

Dreamworks Animation has delivered their best movie yet with How to Train Your Dragon. It’s is a shame that it won’t get the same attention as a Pixar film would, as Dragon is of that very caliber. What seems to be the common thread is the emotional attachment to the characters and their plights. Dragon delivers in this regard by providing a fun story that doesn’t dumb itself down to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

The story centers on a young viking who wants to contribute along with the rest of the tribe in defending their homes by slaying the dragons that attack them. He does not have the physical presence though and really just wants to be accepted rather than become a killer. When he takes a shot into the dark of the sky he gets a lucky hit and takes down a feared dragon that has never been seen before, the Night Fury. He finds the injured Night Fury and they form a bond. He learns that everything the tribe believes they know about the dragons is wrong.

Jay Baruchel voices the main character Hiccup, and provides him with his unique voice which fits really well here to give the character a distinct personality. Others voices were done by Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Jonah Hill. Of those the only one that really stood out as recognizable was Jonah Hill. Really that is a good thing as they all blended in and weren’t distracting.

One refreshing thing about Dragon compared to other family films is how it completely avoided the typical gross-out humor. There are no farting dragons or anything like that which seem to be the standard these days in animated films. Actually the movie overall doesn’t go for much in the way of laughs which is how it avoids the need to go for cheap ones. There are none of the common pop-culture references that riddle other movies. It’s more of a coming of age film, the story of which has been compared favorably to Avatar.

The movie didn’t necessarily need to be expanded but one thing I would like to have known more about was the background to the dragons. We get to find some things out about the different types and learn about their attack methods but we don’t know much about their lives outside their motivations for stealing livestock. Maybe a sequel could provide back story on the dragons or more insight into how they go through their lives.

Yet another 3D entry but this one really delivers. The 3D adds some great depth to every scene without resorting to throwing everything at the audience. It doesn’t change my feeling about the movie one way or the other though. What really sold it was the story and characters, the well done 3D visuals were just a bonus.  The dragon types are really cool, it would be difficult to imagine anyone not immediately feeling attached to the Night Fury while the others have more of a quirky feel to them which adds to their charm. The Night Fury steals the show though.

How to Train Your Dragon is one of the rare films which really plays well to all audiences. The story captures the imagination, the characters are unique and interesting, the relationships they build are compelling, the visuals are fantastic, and it avoids the typical family film cliches.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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