Everybody wanted a pet as a kid. However, there probably weren't any lucky enough to get a dragon.
DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon is a charming movie that will hold children's attention for 98 minutes and leave them wanting to fly home on a fire-breathing friend. For older crowds, the movie is amusing enough to be a whimsical adventure into younger, more imaginative and awe-filled years.
The story is reminiscent of a "boy and his dog" tale and centers around a teenage Viking named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, She's Just Not That Into You), who would rather be a baker than a warrior. The problem is, his people are at war with the dragons.
He deals with the typical problems every Viking teenager has, such as disappointing his father, failing to impress the pretty Viking girls, and not wanting to kill. His character's plight is similar to what one would expect from a modern high school, which makes it easier to connect with Hiccup and his problems.
The dragons in the movie are presented in a humorous light, but the film is still able to show them as a threat and menace to the humans. For Hiccup, this threat disappears the moment he meets his dragon.
The creature, named Toothless, is utterly adorable and far more comparable to a dachshund puppy than to any other dragon. Toothless is sure to be one of the standouts of the movie that will drive kids crazy.
The one real problem with this movie is that Baruchel is 28 years old and sounds more like an adult than a teenage boy. His voice sounds more mature than a kid's should. Also, Baruchel's very distinct sound and delivery style do not transfer over well to an animated character. Many of Hiccup's lines evoke images of the actor instead of a prepubescent Viking.
Gerard Butler (The Bounty Hunter) seems like the perfect fit for a barbaric warrior since his days in 300. Still, his role as Stoick, Hiccup's father and Viking leader, falls somewhat short of "fearless Viking" and lands much closer to Shrek. His natural Scottish accent lends to his performance and manages to come off as caring, yet stern and traditional in a rare role as a father figure.
Watching as Hiccup and Toothless glide through the clouds captures a magical feeling that has been missing from children's movies since the glory days of Disney. Although there are many stunning animated films, How to Train Your Dragon ranks among the best of them. The scenes of dragons in flight display some breathtakingly unique scenery, and the variety of fire-breathing styles that the dragons possess allowed for some superb visual effects.
The story is refreshingly less predictable than one would expect from a children's movie. Though, it shares little in common with the 2003 children's novel by the same title – other than the characters and setting – it still presents a compelling coming-of-age tale.
Despite the theme of war that the movie contains, it is still a children's film at heart.
The war between the dragons and Vikings arises out of conflicting circumstances more than anything else. It lacks the introspective and serious message that many animated movies have started to carry, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Although it lacks any deep meaning, it does not lack fun and thrills. The movie is still able to provide an enjoyable movie experience.
While How to Train Your Dragon may not be the defining animated work of this decade, it is still a pleasant fantasy romp.
A boy and his dragon