Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders.
2010. Rated PG, 98 minutes.
Jay Baruchel
Gerard Butler
America Ferrera
Craig Ferguson
Jonah Hill
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
T. J. Miller
Kristen Wiig

Hiccup (Baruchel) is a bit of a miscast. He’s a young Viking who, like others, yearns to grow up and slay dragons. They’ve been terrorizing his island village since long before he was born, hundreds of years in fact. However, he doesn’t appear to be blessed with the ability. He’s not big or strong and has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s also more cerebral that most of, if not all of his people. Basically, he’s a very young and not quite as neurotic Woody Allen.

Inevitably, Hiccup is misunderstood and smart enough to build a device that enables him to catch one of the elusive species of dragon known as a Night Fury. He’s the first Viking to ever do so. However, instead of killing the beast, he sets it free and the two begin a relationship not much unlike a contemporary boy and his dog.

From there, we get a fun and fun to look at tale. The animation strikes a nice balance between realism and fantasy. The story does the same between light-hearted and intense. It’s a movie adults might not love, but can certainly enjoy.

HTTYD isn’t completely without faults. There could’ve been more about the Night Fury. Are there any more? The final battle could’ve been even more epic. And why the dearth of women on this island. I counted very few. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

There is also the old accent problem. Usually, it’s a Disney problem but Dreamworks has picked it up. In a number of animated movies, the hero will have an American accent while everyone else uses whatever is native to the land. In this case, it correctly makes Hiccup seem out of place, but for some it will also render him unbelievable. Who am I kidding? I just way overthought this. The kids probably won’t notice.

In all, it’s a solid kiddie flick full of life lessons. Thankfully, the moralizing doesn’t overwhelm the story so we still have a blast. This is no small part due to some very good writing that ebbs and flows nicely. It’s one grown-ups can actually be entertained by instead of being assaulted by stupidity.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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