How to Train Your Dragon: Movie Review
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DreamWorks has put together one of the best 3D animated films ever with its latest release, How to Train Your Dragon. The story pits a feisty village of Vikings against a colorful variety of flying fire-breathing dragons who frequently conduct air raids, steal the Vikings' sheep and char their homes.
The 3D animation along with the cleverly written narration of Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), gives the viewer the feeling of being in the midst of the action, whether in the sky with the dragons or on the ground of the rustic Viking homeland. Some books depict sounds, sights and smells so well that their readers feel everything the characters experience. So it is with this endearing story of Hiccup, the teen son of Viking leader, Stoick the Vast, and the boy's unlikely friendship with the most feared of all dragons. The 3D effects are used consistently throughout the film to draw us into the Viking world and the characters, as opposed to producing an occasional wow moment.
Growing up Viking means learning how to kill dragons. Teens usually age into the dragon-killing training camp. As Hiccup grew closer to the age, his thin frame and gentle manner were handicaps in his father's eyes and he was reluctant to let him participate. However, Hiccup's enthusiasm for being like everyone else was high, and the camp's trainer, Gobber, was his ally. Gobber convinced Stoic that the boy was ready for training. He'd been a helper in Gobber's weapons and gadgets department for years and had shown a handy knack for using his brains, which was a good thing, since he had no brawn. He even invented a contraption to kill dragons, although no one believed that there was a better way than fighting them the old-fashioned way. This device became an important link to the eventual friendship between Hiccup and the feared dragon he befriended and named Toothless. Training camp provided comedy relief with five of Hiccup's peers, including Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) who also became an unlikely friend.
About the Rating
The movie is rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language. At first, the dragons and action might be a little troubling for young children. But, even the scariest of the dragons seems mild in comparison to some of the animated bad guys in PG land. The dragons were cleverly designed with odd features that make them easily distinguishable from one another, but not with creepy, dark, and frightening characteristics. Toothless bears a few resemblances to Stitch of Lilo and Stitch, and was created by the same artist. The dragons breathe fire and fly fast, but the script accompanying their action is not fraught with heavy evil intent. On the contrary, the tone of the movie throughout is a bit light hearted and humorous, suitable for all ages.
The centuries long hatred between the Vikings and dragons provides a parable for those who have encountered racism or discrimination in any form. Turns out it's not warranted in their situation either. The writers provided an entertaining way to address this serious flaw in mankind and bring it home with a redemptive message.
Hiccup and his father have one of those typically strained father/son relationships. The teenage boy appears to be the polar opposite of his dad. He's thin, weak, clumsy, optimistic, and sarcastic and Stoic the Vast is big, burly, strong, serious, and accomplished. Hiccup wants to please his dad, and continues to be a disappointment because he's not the dragon-killing type. It's clear that they are miles apart because of the father's preconceived idea of what makes a good son and a good Viking. Hiccup doesn't hold a grudge or become vindictive; he provides a role model for children who might be able to relate to the struggle. The script allows for a wholesome and rewarding resolution that is a real heart warmer.
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