After the Madagascar movies, I began to not expect much from DreamWorks. Their focus on parody made them pale in comparison to the originality of Pixar, but How to Train Your Dragon was a welcome surprise. Boasting a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s awesome in both concept and execution. Based off of Cressida Cowell’s book series, the film combines rowdy Scottish-accented Vikings with various species of the legendary flying reptiles to create something exciting, touching, and just plain cool.
Jay Baruchel brings a geeky likability to Hiccup, and Gerard Butler deepens his voice and accent to give heft to Stoick the Vast. Other roles are filled decently by America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Craig Ferguson, etc. The character I especially admire is Toothless, the Night Fury. I love how his behavior is often cat-like, and his scenes of flight are so exhilarating and beautiful that I wish I had one of my own.
As far as the story, there are some clichés, such as the overbearing, disappointed parent who doesn’t understand the more open-minded child (sounds like The Little Mermaid). The various teen stereotypes aren’t all that memorable, but their interactions in the entertaining training scenes are. There’s even the familiar he’s-dead-no-wait-never-mind cliché, though unlike other movies, Hiccup doesn’t escape completely unscathed, giving the loss more weight. Even with its action-oriented story, the film also extols inventiveness and the value of reading and, yes, open-mindedness.
John Powell’s fantastic Celtic-influenced score heightens the excitement and the fun; it’s probably my favorite score of all of DreamWorks’ animated films. My VC doesn’t much care for the film, considering the dragons to appear too cartoonish, but I think How to Train Your Dragon is DreamWorks Animation’s best film in years. I hope to see the sequel soon.
Best line: (Gobber, to Hiccup about his father) “Now, you’re thinkin’ about this all wrong. It’s not so much what you look like, it’s what’s inside that he can’t stand.”Artistry: 6 Characters/Actors: 7 Entertainment: 9 Visual Effects: 9 Originality: 6 Watchability: 8 TOTAL: 45 out of 60
Next: #174 – Mulan
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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