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How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Directed by:

Chris Sanders

Dean DeBlois

Rating: 9/10

Sure, How to Train Your Dragon touches on just about every staple of animated film—oddball kid with a dad who just doesn’t understand, cute creatures, funny sidekicks, and lots of action that leads to a (SPOILER) not-dead death scene, but by golly, who cares? We’re still left with a clever story that’s beautifully animated and some truly memorable characters who are actually developed and unique (special love from me goes to Craig Ferguson, whose iron-smith Gobber steals every scene he’s in). Yes, Pixar, DreamWorks is finally catching up.

As it is in most coming-of-age Viking tales, young Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) is trying his darndest to be all that his father (Gerard Butler) wants him to be. Of course, it doesn’t help his father is the village’s Chief, Stoick the Vast, or that he himself is a scrawny little dreamer with a quick wit and no penchant for the island’s main occupation of dragon killing. In fact, once Hiccup DOES finally knock out a dragon, he winds up training and rehabilitating it, learning along the way the tricks and inner workings of dragon psyche, and the mysterious motivation behind the creatures’ violent ways.

Everything else aside (and really, the everything else is actually the important part), this film looks amazing, and is one of the best and most unobtrusive uses of 3-D in this often annoyingly overused “new” medium. Even in plain old 2-D, though, the story is enough to put this up there with the best of Pixar. Hiccup is instantly relatable and funny, that Toothless is one cute dragon, and even with the plot points that aren’t all that original, it still manages to get in a few unexpected surprises. Also, the flight and battle sequences are amazing, and though some parts may be a little dicey for smaller kids, there’s a very cool Viking-ly brutal vibe that sets them apart from similar bits in other animated films. HtTYD never condescends or goes gross out humor, nor does it ever get schmaltzy or sentimental; it’s just a funny, well-told story of a father and son. There are a few things that keep Dragon from being everything it could be, mainly that Hiccup’s “love interest” Astrid (voice of America Ferrera) is pretty lackluster; this isn’t a big flaw, but it’s notable in a cast of very engaging characters. Definitely not a deal-breaker, though; this is one to see in the theater in all its big screen glory.

It's Got: Memorable characters, perfect voice cast, 3-D that works

It Needs: A better love interest, parents to know some of the action is intense, theater viewing

Alternatives:

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Finding Nemo, The Hobbit

Summary

In the grand tradition of Pixar, this DreamWorks gem has all the heart, humor, and adventure you can handle.

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