I just found out nobody on this site has reviewed How to Train Your Dragon. Now I get to introduce one of my favorite animated films of recent years.
How to Train Your Dragon is based on the book by Cressida Cowell and tells the story of a young, scrawny Viking by the name of Hiccup (voiced with a wonderfully wimpy voice by Jay Baruchel), who compares poorly to his peers and is a constant disappointment to his big and burly father, the Viking chieftain. Fortunately, he’s a clever lad who likes to use his wits—though the villagers think of him as witless because his attempts at inventions tend to fail.
One evening, one of his inventions knocks a Night Fury out of the sky during a dragon attack, and the next day he heads off into the woods to kill his first dragon to prove his worth to his father. Instead of killing the beast, however, Hiccup is struck by its intelligence. He determines to nurse the dragon back to health while studying it. Since dragons are killed on sight, this isn’t a an activity that is going to win him any points with dad.
This might be a pedantic coming of age story if not for aspects of the film that set it far above the rest of the herd. The character animations and designs are freshly creative. They’re based on the artwork of a large team of visionary illustrators, but most especially the character designs of Nico Marlet. The characters themselves feel like people you know. This is helped by the professional and familiar voice actors like Craig Ferguson, but the script writers infused personality into each character. Even incidental characters have a sense of life to them.
There is also the dialog, which is clever and humorous without pandering. Most kid animations have copious amounts of fart jokes and pop cultural references from overly smart-mouthed characters who are condescending to others around them. The dialog in How to Train Your Dragon felt realistic despite the far-fetched setting. The visuals are stunning, with delightful flights through the air and breathtaking settings.
The importance of character comes into play as you begin to cheer for Hiccup first to tame his dragon, then to train it. The story’s conflict is the clash between Hiccup’s new discovery and how he’s going to introduce it to his father and the other Vikings without being made a more of a laughing stock than he already is.
How to Train Your Dragon may be intended for children, but fans of fantasy who haven’t caught this flick yet are in for a treat. Get over your prejudice of watching children’s animation and rent this one today. I guarantee you will find yourself surprisingly delighted.
Release Date: March 26, 2010 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Violence: 1 (cartoon/slapstick violence, peril, battles, scary climax scenes)