4.04.2010

How to Train Your Dragon : 4 of 5

Although I've always had a good time seeing Dreamworks animated features, I can't really say I'm a fan of the studio, since all of their movies ultimately are unmemorable in my opinion, with the exception of Kung Fu Panda. But of course I still try to experience them all, so my pal Melinda and I went to see How to Train Your Dragon recently, and I was completely surprised! At last this is a Dreamworks film completely without trendy jokes and references, unnecessary pop songs, and without fart jokes! How to Train Your Dragon is a "true" movie with an excellent story and beautiful animation, and I think it's now my favorite movie from the studio, mostly due to the involvement of the talented director Chris Sanders, best known for creating Lilo & Stitch for Disney (and in fact, Toothless the dragon has many of the same characteristics that makes Stitch so lovable). The story takes place in a Viking village where everyone is focused on fighting the many dragons that constantly attack, and a young Viking boy named Hiccup wounds a dragon that becomes his friend and kind of pet while he secretly nurses it back to health. Hiccup is kind of an inventor, and builds a device that allows Toothless to fly again as long as Hiccup rides him to control a prosthetic tail in a brilliant symbiotic relationship, and of course the story eventually leads to a reconciliation between the Vikings and the dragons. Along the way there's some great character development between Hiccup and his uber-Viking father, as well as a cool tough girl named Astrid, which progresses nicely during the somewhat slow pace of the plot. But the movie certainly doesn't drag, since there are plenty of great action scenes along with beautiful and thrilling moments of flying through the clouds (which I've heard are fantastic in 3D, although I chose to see the 2D version as a mild protest against the current onslaught of 3D tyranny, which I'm kind of sick of!). The end of the story makes a really bold choice in plot direction (which I'm sure caused tons of heated debate in development meetings), and I certainly applaud everyone involved for bringing it to the big screen! I really enjoyed the voice work (although at times Hiccup's voice seemed a little too wise-cracking for his visual design) and the marvelous animation, especially of Toothless, who is cute and vicious at the same time. When the movie was over, I definitely had a new opinion about Dreamworks as a studio (even though the trailers showed they still plan on releasing more drivel), and I'd love to watch How to Train Your Dragon again when it's released on DVD!