Friday, February 21, 2014

"How to Train Your Dragon": review

"How to Train Your Dragon" stars nerdy, nasal Jay Baruchel (of "This is the End" fame) as Hiccup, the wimpy son of burly Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), chieftain of the seaside Viking village of Berk. Berk is constantly raided by dragons that steal the villagers' livestock and kill the warriors. Hiccup badly wants to do his part to prove his warrior's mettle, but his father is convinced that Hiccup doesn't have what it takes to be a proper Viking. Beautiful Astrid (America Ferrera), on the other hand, is tough and competent, and Hiccup has a crush on her. So Hiccup spends his time apprenticed to Gobber (Craig Ferguson), sharpening swords, readying weapons, and trying out new inventions that can take down dragons, including a dragon known as a Night Fury—fast, mysterious, and the most feared of all the flying reptiles. One night, Hiccup uses one of his weapons (a bolo-launcher) to take down a Night Fury, which he tracks into the local forest. He readies himself to kill the helpless beast, but has a change of heart and releases it instead. The dragon proves unable to fly away because its tail has been damaged; Hiccup befriends the dragon, whom he names Toothless, and that friendship sets up all the conflict, comedy, and adventure that follow.

Viewers will immediately be reminded of "Avatar," which came out the previous year ("Dragon" was released in 2010; "Avatar" in 2009). Unlike what happens in "Avatar," however, the human reaction to Hiccup's cross-species friendship isn't quite so tainted with destructive avarice and murderous speciesism. The basic theme of "Dragon" is the overcoming of prejudice, and while the message isn't exactly subtle, it's delivered in such a way as not to insult the viewer's intelligence. "Dragon" is a good-hearted, fun, coming-of-age movie, with plenty of magnificent flying scenes and a very impressive (albeit hilariously corpulent) superdragon at the end. It features the voice talents of a whole boatload of Scotsmen (why the casting director chose Scotsmen and not Scandinavians to play Vikings is beyond me) from Gerard "This is Sparta!" Butler to Craig "Ooh là-là!" Ferguson and crazy-eyed David Tennant (you'll remember him from "Hamlet"). The Picts are balanced by a North American contingent—lone Canuck Jay Baruchel and his cohort of Yanks: Jonah Hill, Kristin Wiig, America Ferrera, and Christopher "McLovin/Red Mist" Mintz-Plasse. "How to Train Your Dragon" was ninety minutes well spent. I'll be curious to see the two planned sequels, one of which comes out later this year.



Charles said...

'crazy-eyed David Tennant (you'll remember him from "Hamlet")'

I think we'd be more likely to remember him as the tenth Doctor, though.

John from Daejeon said...

There have been 40 sequels since the original film that serve as a bridge to the upcoming 2014 film of the series, and many of the voice changes in the series have been for the better.

Dammit, maybe 41 sequels as I did not count this unauthorized short as it is technically unofficial.

Kevin Kim said...




I'll just stick to the major movies. Who has time for 40 sequels? Yikes.