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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

An animated family fantasy film released by Dreamworks.

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A Viking, a Dragon, an Unlikely Friendship

  • Mar 26, 2010
Rating:
+4
In the tradition of some of our better animated films, "How to Train Your Dragon" establishes a thoroughly engaging friendship between a boy and an animal -- so engaging that we do in fact hurt when it appears that one or both is in grave danger. Animated films have always had that kind of power over audiences, maybe because an animal gives the filmmaker the perfect opportunity to convey emotions at their most fundamental. When they're happy, they're completely happy. When they're sad, they're completely sad. When they suffer, they express themselves so clearly that we suffer right along with them. It matters not that, in this case, the animal is a dragon, which doesn't exist; in the world of an animated film, entertainment tends to take precedence over reality.

The boy is a Viking teenager named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), an outcast amongst his people for being too short, too skinny, too clumsy, and too nonviolent in a village where dragon slaying is practically a religion. He thinks he wants nothing more than to be a mighty warrior, and for a good portion of time, he tries to get by in training, in which he's pitted against caged dragons in an arena of sorts. But after injuring and ensnaring a dragon all on his own -- an elusive and (supposedly) lethal kind, classified as Night Fury -- he finds he doesn't have the heart to kill it. He then befriends it, humorously dubbing it Toothless, and quickly realizes that his people have it all wrong: Dragons are not evil beasts that must be destroyed, but merely frightened creatures who are provoked into violence.

Toothless, who hides in a clearing beyond a waterfall, is large, graceful, majestic, and ever so slightly cute. This is good, not only for the children in the audience, but also because we need to care for him just as much as Hiccup does. And speaking of Hiccup, he's now faced with the task of leading a double life. To everyone else, including his crotchety trainer Gobber the Belch (voiced by Craig Ferguson), he seems to have transformed himself from a village disgrace into one of the best dragon fighters the people have ever seen. This doesn't sit too well with the tough, athletic, determined Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera), Hiccup's secret crush; she becomes increasingly suspicious of him, especially since his methods of subduing the dragons are not exactly what one would call violent.

Matters are further complicated by Hiccup's father, the brawny Stoick the Vast (voiced by Gerard Butler), who up until now has always been disappointed in his son. Unfortunately, he has become proud for all the wrong reasons. He has yet to find out about Toothless, and he still doesn't understand that Hiccup has absolutely no intention of ever killing a dragon in battle. It's a classic case of the reluctant parent struggling to understand his child, of never listening to the child when he's trying to say something he feels is important.

Indeed, the general plot is a classic case, relying on themes of friendship, acceptance, and courage to get its point across. But what this movie lacks in original ideas it more than makes up for in heart, humor, and sheer visual spectacle, made stronger by its presentation in 3-D. Some of the film's most impressive scenes involve Hiccup riding on Toothless' back as he soars triumphantly above clouds, through craggy peaks, and over the sea; they're not merely stunning examples of camerawork and computer imagery, they're also exhilarating. And yes, there are a number of frenetic battle scenes, especially in the latter half of the film, at which point the Vikings are pitted against a monstrosity the likes of which no one has ever seen.

All this is in good fun. But for my money, the strongest element of "How to Train Your Dragon" was the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless, who against all odds became the best of friends. There is nothing here we haven't seen before, but can you honestly say you weren't touched at some level? The moment when Toothless is finally trusting enough to butt his head against Hiccup's hand made my heart glad. Maybe I'm too sentimental, but there you have it. There are also some genuinely funny moments involving Hiccup's attempts to feed Toothless, one of them ending in a less than appetizing way.

One could easily fault the minor details. Could any Viking, however muscular and well armed, physically defeat a gigantic winged reptile capable of breathing fire? Could anyone keep a large, noisy dragon a secret for as long as Hiccup did? Would no one have discovered the secret dragon nest long ago? If you think these questions are worth asking, you'd probably be better off seeing a different movie. "How to Train Your Dragon," adapted from Cressida Cowell's book, is terrific family entertainment -- fun, heartfelt, and a pleasure to look at. Its greatest achievement is its ability to resonate emotionally, something all stories about unlikely friendships need in order to work. Without it, you'd have nothing more than a mindless action piece, with plenty to see but little to identify with.

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More How to Train Your Dragon reviews
review by . March 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: MAY Well Become the BEST Animated Movie of 2010!! ....it's NO Son of a
Dreamworks animation has often been regarded as the “Poor man’s Pixar” since its animated films are more or less a hit or miss. Well, after the sleeper hit "Monsters Vs. Aliens", the company is once again poised to redeem itself with “How To Train Your Dragon” which is based on the book with the same name. This latest film directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois has enough thought-provoking morale themes, stunning animation, as well as an invaluable …
review by . February 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     You can count on animated films to be good when live action films just aren't. While this is definitely a good thing to count on, some animated films are just bad, and yes, as bad as the live-action flicks are. This is not the case with Dreamworks Animation's first of three 2010 animated offerings. In fact, "How to Train Your Dragon" is the best thing that Dreamworks has had to offer since "Shrek". Yeah, they've come out with some pretty solid stuff from time …
review by . December 30, 2010
i hear so much hype about this movie, so i decide to see it. the animation was unbeliveable,i forgot i was watching a movie. i am really intrested about the movie, so i check out all the special features and all(i watched it on DVD) that, and all the effort into this movie, the hundreds of crew and cast, the animation, like i said, was great,it was fantastic. but i am looking forward to see some other great animation hits, so for right now, this is the best  9.5 out of 10 stars  4.5 …
review by . November 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
DreamWorks Builds its Masterpiece
   With a review title as ambitious as mine, some justification is definitely in order.  See unlike Pixar (with a little help of the Disney promotion machine), animated hits with the potential to become pop culture icons aren’t a given for DreamWorks.  Sure they’ve had Shrek but ask anyone and you’ll discover that 4 feature films and a variety of spin-offs have milked the franchise past its worth.  Kung-Fu Panda came next with signs of brilliance.  …
review by . December 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Out from DreamWorks' animation studio is a tale based on two aggressive yet extinct species, dragons and Vikings. Interesting enough, How to Train Your Dragon strays away from stereotyping these two prolific breeds, giving them a fresh interpretation. Hiccup, the main protagonist (voiced by Jay Baruchel), is illustrated as the lanky outcast whose father is the leader of the violent pack of dragon hunters. In addition, his dragon counterpart, Toothless, isn't the barbaric creature that Vikings …
review by . April 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Dragons have had a pretty checkered history on the silver screen. There have been some good efforts (Reign of Fire, Dragonslayer, Dragonheart) and some terrible misfires (Dungeons and Dragons, Eragon) over the years, but all have fallen short of delivering the definitive dragon movie. The rather clunkily titled How to Train Your Dragon, directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, may well be that movie.      Since its formation in 1994, Dreamworks has always been standing in …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   We always seem to go through phases when it comes to popular genres and topics of entertainment.  We have the year of 3D (which I'm still debating as to whether I should actually be excited or not), the year of remakes (that has become YEARS and I wish would seriously end), the year of cheapquels/sequels (which some films have promise and others are straight to DVD quality), and of course the year of the "underdog"/geek(which is by far my favorite).  3 months …
review by . April 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Dreamworks has always been dominant in the the animation field, but that has never made their movies that were great.  They had Shrek, which was very clever and very unique and original.  But most times when watching a Dreamworks production you're hit with a lot of pop culture references and whatnot.  The exception being Kung Fu Panda which showed a different side of Dreamworks.  How to Train Your Dragon merely perfects what Kung Fu Panda began.  It focuses on being a heartfelt …
review by . April 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
  Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a young boy living on an island with the great vikings. He explains in the beginning that it is a very old land, but with new houses. This is because their houses are constantly being burned down by the firery breath of dragons, who they are always in battle with. Hiccup is the son of a high in rank viking Stoick (Gerard Butler) who is ashamed of his son because he fails to be the dragon fighter he is supposed to. So to prove himself Hiccup shoots down a never before …
review by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
How to Train a Dragon is a coming of age movie. The usual stuff. The overbearing father, with the son who embarrasses him because of his lack of mini-me-ness, tries to force said son to man-it-up and get on with it already. Son does the one thing he can think of to impress his whole village but screws even that up. But while doing so he discovers truth that will change everything his dad, his whole village, his whole world believed. Add humor, fighting, action and a few scary moments, make it animated, …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie

Wiki

How to Train Your Dragon is a CGI animated fantasy film by DreamWorks Animation loosely based on the 2003 book of the same title. The film stars the voice talents of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Gerard Butler, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, and David Tennant. The story takes place in a mythical Viking world where a young Viking teenager named "Hiccup" aspires to follow his tribe's tradition of becoming a dragon slayer. After finally capturing his first dragon, and with his chance at finally gaining the tribe's acceptance, he finds that he no longer has the desire to kill it and instead befriends it. The film was released March 26, 2010.

Poster art for "How to Train Your Dragon: An IMAX 3D Experience."

Characters

  • Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is the main character in these books. He is an unusual Viking who thinks before he does anything. He has red hair and is very thin. He is one of the only people ever to understand and be able to speak Dragonese, the language of the dragons. He is abnormally clever for a Viking, and a good swordfighter. His hunting dragon isToothless, a small dragon that is a common or garden dragon. Hiccup's best friend Fishlegs claims that Hiccup's dragon is a Toothless Daydream, a mythical and rare type of dragon, to fool Hiccup's father Stoick the Vast and those around him.
  • Toothless is Hiccup's hunting dragon. Just like his name suggests, he has no teeth. He used to have one tooth, but it fell out in a ...
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Details

Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: March 26, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 98 minutes
Studio: Paramount Pictures, Dreamworks
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