How to Train Your Dragon
Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, and America Ferrera
Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch)
Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language
Appropriate for all ages
A scrawny young viking wants desperately to follow in his father’s footsteps and kill the nasty dragons that attack his village from time to time. Because of his build he is pegged as someone who cannot kill dragons, but rather sentenced to a life fashioning weapons for those who can. But what he lacks in brawn he makes up for in brains and he invents a weapon able to take down the most fierce of dragons: the never-before-seen Night Fury. But when he finds the dragon he shot down he doesn’t have the heart to kill it, and rather fixes it’s tail that he managed to destroy in the first place, creating a special bond between he and the creature. Knowing that his people will consider him a traitor for his relationship with his new friend, he visits it in secret hoping that no one will discover.
While Pixar is still the reigning champ of high quality animation these days, every now and then Dreamworks comes up with something special like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and now this. In fact, I would put this on the top of that list. As far as storytelling goes, the screenplay, based on the book by Cresseda Cowell is a sweeping epic that can be enjoyed by both young and old. It is imaginative, funny, emotional, awe-inspiring, and full of edge-of-your seat action/adventure. The hero is exactly what you want in a film like this, full of courage, bright, and ambitious to change his people. His relationship to his chieftain/father is something that most will be able to relate to with the father disappointed in the son not knowing what his son is truly capable of. The romantic relationship, while played down because of their age, is cute and just enough. And most importantly, the relationship with the dragon is perfect. A less worthy writer would have had the dragon make instant friends with the boy, but it takes time to get the relationship going and that time spent brings the audience on the journey with him, allowing them to experience his mistakes and successes.
With such an importance placed on the aesthetics of a film, especially in light of the craze of 3D and IMAX technology, Dragon is almost right up there with Avatar as far as pure impressive filmmaking goes. DeBlois and Sanders did a fine job with their last outing Lilo and Stitch, but they’ve really outdone themselves with this newest creation and should give Pixar a run for their money come awards time. The film is outrageously gorgeous to look at, is incredibly well-paced, highly original and will no doubt be a big winner at the box office as well.
I was a little in doubt hearing Jay Baruchel’s voice in the trailer, but I have to admit that his casting was perfect, as was the rest of the voice talent.
As I am writing this, I just had to purchase the beautiful score by John Powell to listen to, which provides not only a great backdrop for the film, but is terrific to listen to independently as well.
So from the spectacular beginning to the somewhat bittersweet but realistic ending, How to Train Your Dragon will go down as a monstrous animated classic. A+