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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Get Your Degree in Dragon Training

How To Train Your Dragon = 3 and 1/2 out of 5
 
[After flying all crazy like]
Hiccup: Thank you for nothing, you useless reptile.


Dreamworks Animation has a sketchy track record. Sometimes you get a quality film with a lot of humor, fun, and even some heart; such as in the first Shrek and Kung Fu Panda. However, the majority of the time you get the standard Dreamworks class of films such as Shark Tale or Madagascar. Not all of the ladder class films are necessarily bad, but the former is certainly preferable. This film falls into that former category, and while it doesn't succeed into a higher level of greatness, it's certainly a fun adventure film and certainly among the best dragon movies ever made.

Based off a book series, set in Viking times, the story focuses on Hiccup, a scrawny, young lad looking to become a dragon hunter like his fellow vikings, through the use of his inventing skills, opposed to brute force. During one of the common dragon raids on his village, Hiccup manages to knock a particular dragon out of the sky. He approaches the dragon he has caught, out in the woods, only to discover that it has been injured, now trapped in a lake area surrounding by higher cliffs. Hiccup soon befriends the dragon, he names Toothless, and creates a replacement piece for his tail, which was injured, helping Toothless to fly again.

As Hiccup and Toothless secretly bond, with Hiccup learning more and more about dragons, as well as how to control them, he leads a daily life that involves his training to become a dragon hunting viking, much like all the others, including his father, the best in the business. Of course, Hiccup learns the true nature of dragons, and has to figure out how to show his village that the dragons should not be feared as much as they think.

Hiccup: Everything we know about them is wrong.

What really struck me is the film's adherence to the hero's journey storyline; mainly because of how it really was an adventure flick, not containing a lot in the way of comedy. There are funny moments scattered throughout, for sure, but it certainly seemed like a departure for a Dreamworks feature to not have a whole lot of comedy. However, due to this path, there wasn't too much to keep the film feeling very fresh beyond its vocal performances and the quality animation on display.

Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder, The Scorcerer's Apprentice) leads the cast as Hiccup. Gerard Butler voices the father with a beyond impressive Viking beard. America Ferrera voices the love interest, Astrid. Craig Ferguson provides some laughs as the Obi Wan character. McLovin, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, and TJ Miller all fill in for underdeveloped comic relief characters.

The animation is certainly top notch and even breaks away from the standard mold of characters seen in these types of features. And the 3D was certainly enjoyable as well, again proving that films shot/made in 3D, opposed to being converted after the fact (Alice) will always look better. 

Overall satisfying feature, boasting some very good looking visuals and a change in pace from the Dreamworks Animated Studio department.

Astrid: What are you going to do?
Hiccup: Something stupid.
Astrid: You've already done that.
Hiccup: Then something crazy.
Astrid: That's more like it.

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