How To Train Your Dragon (2010)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

        

Featuring the Voices of:  Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Robin Atkin Downes, Philip McGrade, Kieron Elliott, Ashley Jensen, David Tennant.
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Director:  Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
Rating:  PG
Running Time:  98 Mins.
Release Date:  March 26, 2010
DVD Release Date:  October 15, 2010
Box Office: $217.6 Million
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DreamWorks Animation, Mad Hatter Entertainment, Vertigo Entertainment, and Paramount Pictures.

Written by:  William Davies, Dean DeBlois, and Chris Sanders, adapted from the children’s novel, “How To Train Your Dragon”, written by Cressida Cowell.

“I don’t want to kill dragons!”- Hiccup (Jay Baruchel)

Pixar has dominated the world of animated motion picture filmmaking for over a decade.  On occasion during that time, other studios have created some classic animated features, but no one can match Pixar’s incredible run of successes.  It is for that reason, that “How To Train Your Dragon” is an important film.  Made by DreamWorks Animation, whose first feature “Shrek” in 2001 is until now their finest achievement, “How To Train Your Dragon” is a nearly perfect, almost epic motion picture.

In the village of Berk, its inhabitants are under constant fear of dragon attack.  The dragons feast on the sheep and livestock and their constant raiding of the village has left the villagers frightened and weary.  A young, nerdy Viking on the eve of his warrior training, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is not someone who sees himself as a brave and noble dragon slayer.  However, to please and satisfy his father, save face with his friends, and try and stay close to the beautiful Astrid (America Ferrera), who he has a crush on, Hiccup determines that he will do whatever he can to slay the fearsome “Night Fury” dragon and earn the respect and admiration of his villagers.

Hiccup is genius-level smart and succeeds in downing the rarely seen “Night Fury” with a weapon of his own design.  Finding the dragon hurt and still alive, Hiccup senses that the “Night Fury” is perhaps not the frightening and loathsome creature he has been made to believe.  A bond is made but Hiccup must keep the friendship private.  Instead, he puts his dragon whispering skills to work in taming the temperament of the dangerous dragons contained in the village for training purposes.  Hiccup’s abilities are nothing short of incredible to everyone, except a skeptical Astrid, who starts to figure out that Hiccup’s talents may not be all they appear to be.

If I have one criticism of “How To Train Your Dragon”, I should get it out of the way immediately.  The story is not all that original.  Now, with that acknowledged, there is really nothing else that can be said negatively about this wonderful film.  Top to bottom, beginning to end, “How To Train Your Dragon” is one of the finest animated features of recent memory.  The film is an immersive experience, one which reaps benefits for adults and children of all ages.  Far and away this is DreamWorks Animation’s most visually impressive film, with deep, rich colors and meticulous detail on the backgrounds and close ups of the dragons and other characters.

What “…Dragon” also gives you is an intelligent and well orchestrated script and story.  I am not familiar with the source material, the series of books by Cressida Cowell, but I have to believe that even with the several reported changes the screenwriters put in place, Ms. Cowell must be pleased.  To younger viewers, this will be a fast-paced action comedy with dragons and laughs and a boy who wants to earn his father’s respect and admiration.  For the older of viewers, themes of tolerance, understanding, respect, dignity, and the importance of family will resonate.  In short, most everyone will be struck by something they see over the 90+ minute running time.

“How To Train Your Dragon” is a victory and the rare feature film you hope becomes a franchise.  You simply want to have these characters return by the film’s conclusion.  Whether it is the voice work, the story, the visual beauty, the stunning musical score by John Powell, or the aurally pleasing sound design, “How To Train Your Dragon” is a film you cannot help but enjoy. Within minutes I was a fan and midway through, perhaps because of a moving and rather extraordinary moment shared between Hiccup and the “Night Fury”, I wanted to make sure that people that missed the film knew about it.

Pixar may be the most dominant and impressive animation studio in existence.  But if “How To Train Your Dragon” is any indication, the gap between Pixar and DreamWorks Animation may have closed significantly.

Should I See It?

YES

“…Dragon” embodies something for everyone and more than holds up to repeated viewings.

Children will be engaged and most likely begin quoting lines left and right.  More importantly, the younger viewers will learn of themes that will speak to them.  The importance of respect, understanding differences, tolerance, and unconditional love will reach them and hopefully resonate.

The film takes flight because of the technical accomplishments.  The score by John Powell is something special and award worthy.

NO

You are adverse to a good film or refuse to believe that an animated family film can be enjoyed by adults.

The idea of dragons, Vikings, mythical villages, and fantasy stories in general are of no interest to you.

You do not like to watch movies or have banned them outright from your house.  I mean, why would you not watch this film and give it a chance?

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