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HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

An animated family fantasy film released by Dreamworks.

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3D shows its teeth? Move over, "Piranha 3D". 2010 in 3D filmmaking was made for flight.

  • Feb 1, 2011
Rating:
+3
*** 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 to time, but I concur with most people when they say that "How to Train Your Dragon" soars higher than most animated films of its year. Possibly the best things about the film are the animation, the entertainment value, and the common elements of a good old classic Dreamworks movie. As another one of their animated features that actually has a message, I'd say "How to Train Your Dragon" actually has a pretty darn good one. Aside from that, the story is as cliché as you'd expect, and yeah, that's about all that could possibly hurt the movie. Otherwise, it's thrilling and definitely entertaining for its entire run-time. If Dreamworks could do even better with this premise, then it would be making it into an animated epic. And I would have watched it, strangely enough, because Dragons and Warfare go together like peanut butter and jelly. So if you're looking for one of the most endearing and entertaining films of 2010, then look no further. I won't say that "How to Train Your Dragon" is one of the year's best, but it's an animated treat for just about any movie-goer who has at least liked an animated film before, and judging by the looks of things, that's quite few people. The film is easy to recommend since it aims to be more than just a "cool flight sequence" animated film; it has stunning visual design, somewhat quirky and funny characters, and even some genuinely touching moments. Not all animated films can do that, you know. And I'm not saying that "How to Train Your Dragon" is anything special, but I think Dreamworks has a right to boast about it. As long as you can get past the somewhat tedious, then you'll find that "How to Train Your Dragon" is quite good indeed. I would definitely recommend it.

I read the novel which this film is based upon (it goes by the same name). I never liked the novel too much; it was clever, but not clever enough to draw me in as it should. Perhaps it's just me being the overly mature person I am, but the humor in the book just struck me as unfunny and goofy; and not in the good sense. "How to Train Your Dragon", as a film, improves on its source material with wit and grace. This is a better story than the original novel of "How to Train Your Dragon". There's a sense of feeling closer to emotion than pretentiousness here, and I kind of have to admire that. The story itself kind of feels like a generic run-of-the-mill exercise in "hero starts out pathetic and goes out with a bang" kind of story. Nevertheless, it's made entertaining due to the outstanding visuals and taut flight sequences. The film tells the story of Hiccup, a sort of outsider who has never had the fighting skills that are expected of the son of a Viking. He lives in the land of Berk, where the rest of his Viking pals reside. There, one's highest ambition would be to fight and slay dragons in their life-time, and being the conformist he is, Hiccup wants to do this too. One night, he attempts to capture a beasty by firing a home-made catapult, and to his surprise he actually hits something. When he checks out just what he hit the next day, he makes an incredible discovery. He has hit a Night Fury; a legendary and swift dragon which has not been seen by man. Initially, Hiccup aims to kill the dragon he has successfully cornered and earn his place amongst the other Vikings, but decides to resort otherwise when he learns that he just doesn't have the heart to do so. He instead befriends and trains this dragon, and the two form a pretty tight bond. Through this experience, Hiccup gets exceptionally close to communicating with just about any dragon, and therefore learns that they aren't nigh as dangerous as his father and his peers have made them out to be. The trouble is that his father, the leader of the Vikings from the village of Berk, still lacks a proper understanding of the beasts and wants to slay them all for what they have done out of their own fear. It's a classic tale where one family member has an understanding while the other doesn't, and nearly does something stupid. As it turns out, the message of the film is ultimately that you should understand your enemy and walk around in their skin for a while before you do so much as pelt them with rocks and stain their scales with red from the impact of your axes. Most of the characters in the film are generic, and of course there's the expected love interest and all-out battle sequence near the end. Was it familiar? Yes, terribly. Did I enjoy it? Yes, I did. "How to Train Your Dragon" would have fared well in the 2009 animated year; which is one of the best animated years for film I have witnessed. I say this because Dreamworks' entry for that year was "Monsters VS. Aliens", and that movie just wasn't good enough for me. "How to Train Your Dragon" would not have been one of the best animated films for that year, but hey: at least it would have fit in just right. As it is, 2010 was kind of disappointing as far as animation goes, which explains why I kind of wish "MVA" and "HTTYD" were switched around to fit their year with their quality.

Some actors do better when they're not actually on camera. One such case fits the bill when speaking of Jay Baruchel, who for the most part, I'm not a big fan of. The guy is typically obnoxious in his roles, and for once, it kind of helped him here to have that certain quality. His voice is perfect for the persistent but undeniably lame persona of Hiccup. I kind of liked the character. Gerard Butler is also in the same position; an actor who I kind of hate whenever I see him but when I hear him, it's not half as bad. Butler uses his actual accent in this film, and it really does fit his Viking. America Ferrera plays the love interest (surprise, surprise), and her voice actually seems pretty right for the part. However, there were voice actors that I liked in particular. Craig Ferguson is a unique choice, but then again he plays a character that exists for the kind of comic relief that only Ferguson could adapt so well to. Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays a sort of dorky, flabby character, which is the only kind of voice role he could possibly ever play (well, at least the dorky part fits him well). Jonah Hill also plays the complete instigator character, who serves no purpose in the story, but merely exists to be the jerk that he is. All I can say to that is; these people are genius!

As most people would agree, "How to Train Your Dragon" spends less time telling a story and more time providing visual thrills. This could have been a completely forgettable film if it hadn't been for these moments of extreme visual artistry, and since they're there, the movie has the capacity to soar. It's not as emotionally resonant as it wants to be, but the film feels good and looks fantastic. All-around, it's a particularly pleasant experience. Let me just start by saying that "How to Train Your Dragon" looks better than any of Dreamworks' other films have. And yes, even better than you, "Kung Fu Panda". The lovely visual look leaves room for more possibilities to come out of a film such as this, and coincidentally it gives you just about everything you'd want. The hair on the characters looks real; as do the scales on the dragons. This may have been a good film to see in 3D, that is if 3D wasn't dead. Some people feel that this film is a great cinematic achievement for 2010. Some even say it's one of the year's best films. I disagree completely, but "How to Train Your Dragon" is still well-done animation. It's consistently entertaining and thrilling enough to keep me hooked. The only complaint I have other than the plot is that the humor sometimes falls flat. Yes, I laughed. But not always. Dreamworks can't make much funny films, can they? But at least this one comes closer to being funny than "Monsters VS Aliens", "Shark Tale", or "Shrek the Third" ever did. It's better than all of those films, and in so many ways. This was a charming adventure of a film; not perfect, but perfect for the time that it was released. Yeah, it may not require thought and yeah, it's not a great movie. But there was skill in adapting this production, and I admire the success. I truly did enjoy myself.

"How to Train Your Dragon" deserves a lot of points for being less generic than it probably should be. Unlike "Monsters VS. Aliens", it does not rely on a premise and a gimmick (known to some as 3D) to get its audience; it used the stunning animation that it was given to use. As far as appeal goes, there's too much charm to truly resist this film. I assume that some will try to go against the masses and say it's a poor film, and those are the kind of people who don't know when a film requires you to switch off your brain for a few hours and just feel the film. This is one of those times; a film without a compelling plot but full of mindless fun. If you want to kill some brain cells then "How to Train Your Dragon" is a mighty fine way to do it. Animation counts as cinema, and while this is not necessarily "good" cinema, it's still a good film. It's entertaining and crafty; full of wit and chock-full of thrills. In all honesty, I quite enjoyed the ride, at least while it lasted. The only complaint I have is that it got more critical praise than perhaps it deserves. This is not a perfect film; in fact, it's not nigh flawless. But it's very watchable and therefore very entertaining, so chances are you will enjoy it if you try to see it for what it is and what it wants to deliver. "How to Train Your Dragon" knows that it exists to be cool, have stunning visuals, and provide the viewer with thrills via flight scenes. I kind of like how this film knows what it is, and as a result I did indeed like the movie itself. I can understand the appeal not working for some, but most people will agree that the film certainly has charm, and most people will therefore be willing to watch the thing. It's the first Dreamworks animated feature since "Shrek" where I am nearly begging for a sequel, and that kind of means a lot considering I think "Kung Fu Panda" deserves a sequel; just not as much as "How to Train Your Dragon" does. Let's hope that we'll be seeing more adventures from Hiccup and company in the near future, since this entry was quite satisfying. I would be honored to soar with the lot once again.

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April 04, 2011
awesome, Ryan!
 
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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 . 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, …
review by . August 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I'm a middle aged adult, but you'll never hear me whine, 'We didn't have 3D when I was a kid!' Well, part of the deal is being a middle aged adult nowadays means you can keep making up for lost time. Oh, yes, we had 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,' 'Oliver!' and the first release of 'Star Wars,' but kids nowadays have never had it so good. Call it middle life crisis. Call me the middle-aged man who can't grow up, or call me just genuinely honest, but I was thoroughly satisfied with this …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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