Published on March 29th, 2010 | by Darren Byrne2
How to Train Your Dragon
How to Train Your Dragon is the story of Hiccup (voiced by Tropic Thunder’s Jay Baruchel), a young Viking boy who lives in a small island village that is constantly besieged by dragons. Despite his tininess, he dreams of someday becoming a fearsome dragon slayer, like his father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler). Hiccup manages to shoot a particularly fearsome dragon out of the sky. When he goes into the woods to finish it off, he’s unable to actually deliver the final deathblow. The dragon responds by sparing his life in turn. Thus begins a friendship between the two. One of the most endearing parts of this movie is the fact that the dragons are non-Disney creatures. They don’t talk and Hiccup must find a way to communicate with his newfound friend, leading to some of the most charming sequences in the film.
This is all happening at a time when Hiccup is beginning dragon-slayer training with Gobber (a scene strealing Craig Ferguson), alongside fellow trainees Astrid (Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), and Fishlegs (Kick-Ass and Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Hiccup must risk earning his father’s disapproval by stating his desire to not become a dragon slayer after all.
How to Train Your Dragon creates characters who we genuinely come to care about, and it places them into a plot that invests us emotionally. The humor springs from those characters and situations, rather than from forced in-jokes and pop culture references, a la Shrek and its ilk. We are engaged by good, old-fashioned storytelling and that’s why I see it standing the test of time.
The 3D element of the film is among the best I’ve seen. It’s not gimmicky, with stuff flying out at you every couple of minutes. Instead, the 3-D is used to portray the vast size of the dragons, particularly in the closing battles and the wonderful depth of the scenery. The flying sequences are an absolute treat to watch. I was surrounded by about 40 kids during this film who were glued to the screen. The only noise they made was to laugh at the genuinely funny moments and to gasp in awe during the flying scenes.
The moral message of the film is nicely delivered without being overly sentimental, again allowing repeated viewing. The message of father/son acceptance is one of the nicest and strongest story arcs I’ve seen in a kids movie. Hiccup knows his father may be disappointed, yet he has also inherited Stoick’s belief in doing what is right.
How to Train Your Dragon may not have the epic heartbreaking beauty of Up or Wall-E’s subtle art, but it’s an animated movie that takes itself seriously and entertains by being genuinely funny and well written, rather than using any cheap en vogue references or empty headed pratfalls. It is one aimed squarely at kids, with very few nods and winks to the adults, but I think most adults will fall for this movie’s charm too.
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Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon is out in cinemas now.