Wednesday, April 28, 2010
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON / ***½
Distributor: Paramount (DreamWorks)
Release Date: March 26, 2010
Running Time: 98 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
In the somewhat checkered history of DreamWorks Animation (I’m looking at you “Shark Tale,” “Shrek,” and “Madagascar”), the latest release from Pixar’s primary competition rests comfortably at the top of their filmography, right alongside “Kung Fu Panda,” “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” and “Chicken Run.”
The story is fairly simple, but is told with admirable wit and style. Jay Baruchel (his second starring role from March) stars as Hiccup, a young Viking who doesn’t exactly fit the mold his fearsome warrior father Stoick (Gerard Butler) does.
The entire Viking population is concerned with killing dragons. Hiccup has been densied dragon killing training because his disapproving father doesn’t think he can handle it. All of the other Viking children are the typically aggressive, grunting brutes. There’s Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and twins Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) and Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig). The best and smartest fighter is Astrid (America Ferrera); she’s also the object of Hiccup’s desire. They all train with the grizzled old Gobber (Craig Ferguson in show-stealing vocal performance).
All their lives, the Vikings have operated under the idea that dragons are dangerous and out to get them, and must be killed. The vilest dragon of all is called the Night Fury, a dragon that cannot be seen at night and causes massive destruction everywhere it goes. Hiccup vows to be the first Viking to ever kill one, thinking it would impress his father. He claims to have done it before, but no evidence has ever been found.
The plot kicks into motion when Hiccup finally does take one down. However, he is unable to finish the job and leaves the dragon alive. After some initial trepidation on both sides, both Hiccup and the Dragon, which he names Toothless, realize that neither are violent by nature. Hiccup discovers that the bigger problem was not training the dragon, but re-training the Vikings. The story follows a traditional arc but the characters are likable enough and the 3D effects are extremely well done, probably second only to “Avatar.”
“How to Train Your Dragon” is a tremendously entertaining film that presents a solid message for the kids. The actors all do a great job making their characters stand out in a somewhat crowded field. You know it’s good when I don’t completely hate Gerard Butler.
After grosses over $180 million, a sequel was recently announced. It is scheduled for release in 2013.
Theater: RDM Westroads 14, Omaha, NE
Time: 145 pm
Date: April 21, 2010