Rating: 4 out of 5
Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel, to be seen next in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), the main protagonist in this animated film based on book by Cressida Cowell, is stick thin and considered a bit of a loser in the Viking town of Berk. His dad, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), is chief, and does not have high hopes for Hiccup.
Nonetheless, Hiccup believes his inventive nature can help him take down a dragon, and he invents a net trap that snares one of the most mysterious dragons of all; a Night Fury. However, the young Viking cannot bring himself to kill it, and Hiccup and the black dragon, which he names Toothless, develop a friendship.
Back in Berk, Hiccup and other young Vikings, including Astrid (America Ferrera, aka Ugly Betty), the girl Hiccup is infatuated with, are trained by Gobber (Craig Ferguson) in the art of dragon fighting. His friendship with Toothless, however, helps him jump to the head of the class.
Adventure and comedy ensues.
DreamWorks has always been a step behind CG animation giant Pixar, and while things won’t change with their latest offering, this film does show DreamWorks moving in a different direction.
The studio had constantly produced animation hits that aimed squarely at the funny bone, such as the Madagascar movies and the Shrek franchise. This time around, it showcases some superb artistic animation, including some stunning visuals, while relying less on superstar voicing.
Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, who made Disney’s mega-hit Lilo and Stitch, Dragon shares numerous characteristics. Toothless, the dragon Hiccup captures and befriends, behaves like the dog-like Stitch, and also (despite the name) has teeth that it looks eager to use.
The voicework is fairly well done, though some of the lines are going to go over the heads of most kids.
Nonetheless, the great visuals should grab their attention. The flying sequences are eye-popping, and the design of the dragons (there are at least five different types featured in this film) is wonderfully distinctive.
The story otherwise is rather standard animation fare, as Hiccup comes of age and the two warring species find ways to overcome their differences and work together. There are also a few throwaway scenes, such as Toothless messing around with some baby dragons, that appear just for laughs.
The 3D quality of the film is most obvious in the flying sequences, and is quite a sight to behold.
All in all, How to Train Your Dragon is a lot of fun and highly entertaining. It should, like numerous other DreamWorks animations, succeed in an epic way at the box office.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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