How to Train Your Dragon
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A winner with audiences and critics alike, DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon rolls fire-breathing action, epic adventure and laughs into a captivating and original story. Hiccup is a young Viking who defies tradition when he befriends one of his deadliest foes – a ferocious dragon he calls Toothless. Together, the unlikely heroes must fight against all odds to save both their worlds in this “wonderful good-time hit!” (Gene Shalit, Today).
A winning mixture of adventure, slapstick comedy, and friendship, How to Train Your Dragon rivals Kung Fu Panda as the most engaging and satisfying film DreamWorks Animation has produced. Hiccup (voice by Jay Baruchel) is a failure as a Viking: skinny, inquisitive, and inventive, he asks questions and tries out unsuccessful contraptions when he's supposed to be fighting the dragons that attack his village. His father, chief Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), has pretty much given up on his teenage son and apprenticed him to blacksmith Gobber (Craig Ferguson). Worse, Hiccup knows the village loser hasn't a chance of impressing Astrid (America Ferrera), the girl of his dreams and a formidable dragon fighter in her own right. When one of Hiccup's inventions actually works, he hasn't the heart to kill the young dragon he's brought down. He names it Toothless and befriends it, although he's been taught to fear and loathe dragons. Codirectors and cowriters Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, who made Disney's delightful Lilo and Stitch, provide plenty of action, including vertiginous flying sequences, but they balance the pyrotechnics with moments of genuine warmth that make the viewer root for Hiccup's success. Many DreamWorks films get laughs from sitcom one-liners and topical pop culture references; as the humor in Dragon comes from the characters' personalities, it feels less timely and more timeless. Toothless chases the spot of sunlight reflected off Hiccup's hammer like a giant cat with a laser pointer; Hiccup uses his newly found knowledge (and an icky smoked eel) to defeat two small dragons--and impress the other kids. How to Train Your Dragon will be just as enjoyable 10 or 20 years from now as it is today. (Rated PG: suitable for ages 8 and older, violence, some intense action and scary dragons) --Charles Solomon
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Boy, was I dumb. Meet one of the year's best films, animated or no. A beautiful and moving journey that addresses war and peace, man and animal, love and hate, and even disability and wholeness. The dragons are not ugly, but are more like birds and bats (with a dash of cat!)--squat and weird on the ground, yet gorgeous and graceful in flight. Toothless's flights make the flights in 'Avatar' look clumsy, honestly (and I'm not dissing 'Avatar,' I totally enjoyed it).
The flying sequences are gorgeous, poignant, joyful and moving. These scenes are something special. When a character runs a hand through the air above them, blissfully, feeling the feathery cool, previously untouchable, clouds against their fingertips, it's almost impossible not to feel their joy.
"How to Train Your Dragon" is, in fact, an utter delight, a moving and witty and incredibly deep exploration of people and animals, no less, who dare to envision a different outcome for themselves. (Yeah. I cried.)
The growing friendship between the misfit boy Hiccup and his dragon friend Toothless is eerie, quiet (nearly wordless) and gorgeously depicted--helped enormously by John Powell's lovely score. It will remind many, in fact, of the quietly humorous scenes in Carroll Ballard's classic "The Black Stallion" over three decades ago.
I found myself so invested that I held my breath more than once. And did I cry at other scenes? Heck yeah. And filled with wonder, at some of the eeriest and most beautiful moments I've ever seen in an animated film.
What I loved about the writing for HTTYD, along with so many other animated favorites of mine, as well, was that there was this obvious care taken with the script and story. Because every animated moment costs so much, every moment matters. Everything comes together in a satisfying and literate way. Watching it made me wish more live-action filmmakers took half as much care with the stories and scripts they create. (I love movies in general -- always have -- but honestly, the past 4-5 years, I'm lucky if I like even 2 or 3 a year anymore.)
Two other things that really struck me in the film:
1. The repeated refrain of "I did this." It's said several times throughout the film, in happiness, regret, disappointment, etc., and it's a really subtle way of empowering the characters. They take responsibility for what they do, for good or ill. I really like that.
2. The fact that Toothless and Hiccup are a mutual support system -- friends whose challenges mirror each other's. That's all I'll say. But the last 5 minutes of the film I found incredibly unique for a kid's film. And really moving and poignant. There is a deep love between boy and dragon that will resonate for anyone who's ever had a much-loved pet. Sometimes that bond can seem like mind-reading. They simply know what you need, and provide it.
All I'll say, remaining vague, is that I was in tears for the final 5 minutes of the film, and the emotions were too complex to name. There's regret, joy, love, and acceptance. That's enough for me.
And best of all, [the ending of this film] really packs a wallop yet is utterly unpreachy. It's just the satisfying culmination of a really well-told story. And for a cute little animated movie that I kind of expected to forget almost as soon as I watched it, that totally knocks me out. There's a lot of depth to this story, and I found myself thinking about it even the next day. It's awesome when that happens.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a young viking-in-training. Pressured by his father Stoick the Great (Gerard Butler), Hiccup is supposed to learn how to slay dragons like all vikings do. Hiccup has been led to believe that all dragons are evil and must be killed before the dragons kill them. Believing what he's been hearing, Hiccup makes a special weapon of his own to bring down one of the feared dragons.
Hiccup manages to bring down a night fury; the most feared dragon of all. But instead of being excited for his deed, Hiccup feels bad for the injured dragon. Soon, the two have become close friends, and Hiccup has named him Toothless. In no time, Hiccup has fashioned a saddle and is soaring high in the sky on Toothless' back.
But, Hiccup still has his father to deal with. Stoick, thrilled at Hiccup's bringing down the dragon, has insisted that he begin formal dragon training. The only thing that Hiccup likes about it is that he gets to be near Astrid (America Ferrera). During the course of his training, Hiccup begins to learn that the dragons aren't really evil at all; they are just like the vikings, hoping to survive. However, convincing his father will be another matter. Hiccup and Toothless soon discover that the dragons are merely pawns in a larger game controlled by a huge, menacing creature. Will Hiccup, Astrid, and the others be able to save the dragons, or will the creature destroy both the dragons and the vikings?
I've seen numerous animated movies with my children, and I have to rate "How to Train Your Dragon" as one of the best. The special effects are excellent, and the story is good, too. I enjoyed watching the relationship develop between Hiccup and Toothless, and the comedy left me laughing out loud. My three kids are big fans, too. For a fun family movie, watch "How to Train Your Dragon". Highly recommended.