How to Train Your Dragon (Review)

(3/26/10; Adventure, Fantasy; 3D)
Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig, T.J. Miller
SCR/DIR: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois; based on the book by Cressida Cowell
MPAA: PG for Sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language.
1 hour 38 mins
BOX: $217,387,195

Engaging and very funny CGI-animated adventure pulls off a near-impossible task: introducing a fantasy world in which medieval Vikings live in constant struggle with dragons, and and emerging as an Oscar-nominated crowd pleaser.

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (Barchel) is a Viking but he’s not a hero. To pass his initiation, he sets out to hunt down the fiercest dragon and bring it into submission, but it’s fair to say the dragon he finds isn’t that fierce either. He’s nicknamed Toothless and through their bond, Hiccup begins to realize that his Viking brethren are only seeing part of the bigger dragon picture.

What this film does especially well is something that Pixar films have embraced to great success: valuing the quieter moments. The scenes in which Hiccup bonds with the dragon are mostly wordless and are quite powerful. I’m usually not a fan of 3D, especially when it’s slapped over the film in post-production, but when it’s integrated into the visual design of an animated film, it can be stunning.

Such is the case here. Dragon isn’t quite as good as your average Pixar movie but it comes close, with scope, grandeur, an interesting mythology and a surprisingly big heart. (DreamWorks Animation)


Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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