Monday, April 19, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon: Like Avatar, but shorter and less pretentious

This image has been downloaded from and is courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures.

I apologize for the massive lag in updating - the last two weeks were probably one of the toughest I've ever faced in my relatively short time on this planet.

How To Train Your Dragon was, in a word, beautiful. Wonderfully timed at an exhilarating hour and 38 minutes, it's just enough to keep the kiddies entertained and the adults captivated.

The story focuses around a young Viking named Hiccup, who is voiced by Jay Baruchel, bringing a perfect balance of nasal and flat-toned vocals to the pint-sized unlikely hero who cowers in the shadow of his father, Stoick the Vast. (The name alone brought quite a few chuckles to the audience.)Stoick is voiced in the gruff Scottish brogue of Gerard Butler, who can't understand why his son can't get started on a beard long enough to braid more importantly (though not by much) start slinging axes at the dragons that plague the craggy mountainous somewhere in the Arctic circle that they call home. As Hiccup says, "Old village, lots of new houses" just as a dragon torches a neatly constructed thatched cottage.

The dragons themselves just happen to be cute as buttons, despite the fact they are such terrible pests. So when Hiccup manages to down one of the most vicious of all, the Night Fury, he is determined to do his Dad proud and bring home its heart. But looking deep into the dragon's amber eyes, he realizes he just can't do it. And seeing as the dragon reminded me way too much of my own cat Toby, I'd have trouble doing him in too.

What follows is a tender tale of tolerance (how's that for a tongue-twister)for both Hiccup and Toothless, who the Night Fury becomes known as. Not only does the tale provide lush visual effects in the form of misty forests and sweeping landscapes, but it also shows the consequences as well as the benefits of doing what's right.

Perhaps the only sad part of the film is we don't get to find out too much about the backgrounds of the dragons. Hiccup says at one point that everything they know about dragons is wrong, but what we do find out about them - beyond the fact they are rather amiable creatures whose pillaged food from the village, as it turns out, is not for them - is precious little.

But perhaps it will give an excuse for an equally well-developed sequel. I wouldn't mind seeing more of the growls and warblings of Toothless, who looks extraordinarily like Stitch from the wonderful 2002 Disney feature Lilo & Stitch. No surprise considering the co-director of that film Dean DeBlois was the author of the screenplay for How To Train Your Dragon. I would be remiss not to mention Hiccup's cohorts, which includes Astrid, the beautiful Viking gal who despite her snotty demeanor is entertaining as a fiercesome warrioress, and Fishlegs, the good-hearted geek who makes some very funny Dungeons and Dragons quips throughout the film.

When you do see it, be sure to go 3D. The high-flying areal sequences alone are worth it.

So what are you waiting for? It won't be in theaters much longer! Go! Go!

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