How to Train Your Dragon Review – Here Be Dragons!
April 9, 2010 3 Comments
How to Train Your Dragon
An animated film by DreamWorks Animation
score: **** outta five
How to Train Your Dragon is the next in DreamWorks’ forays into kid’s films. You know, the usually lame kind with cute talking animals making idiotic jokes and smacking into things, unwatchable by any but a little kid (yes, I know that’s the audience, but even us older folks can enjoy a simple yarn once in a while). Except holy smokes, Batman, it doesn’t suck! It’s actually watchable, nay, for a kid’s film, a solid piece of entertainment, one that you can watch with your smaller siblings without cringing (that isn’t made by Pixar)!
Loosely based on the first in a series of kid’s books (which I haven’t read, but might) written by Cressida Crowell, How to Train Your Dragon is a very predictable film. You can put all the pieces together, probably from the first moment: Everyone Is Dumb But The Hero, They’re Not Evil – They’re Just Misunderstood!, A Boy And His Pet Will Form A Bond And Save The Day, Everyone Reconciles (father and son, hero and love interest, good guys and not-actually-bad guys) And Is Happy. Despite relying on all the standard tropes, despite the fact that this film from the get-go will make the entirety of the plot transparent to you, it is worth watching for two reasons: the filmmakers craft a plot that is visually and emotionally charged, and they do it pretty well. The film, now that I think about it, doesn’t use as much dialogue as its DreamWorks brothers, whose characters constantly spew forth incessant and mind-numbing chatter. The film’s charm lies in the way it uses its visuals and atmosphere to tell the story, in a much subtler and emotionally affecting way than its stupid brethren. From the quiet and isolated moments when Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, our protagonist, slowly befriends the not-so-evil dragon he christens Toothless, to their thrilling and majestic first flight over the skies and seas, all the way to the final battle in the clouds the movie sticks to its guns and doesn’t stray from its path. No glut of obnoxious fourth-wall breaking pop culture references (well, mostly): when characters talk, it’s usually to further the story towards another visually charming scene. There are still jokes, of course, but they manage to not annoy me, and I think they might have gotten a grin or even a chuckle outta me somewhere (two words – “breast hat”).
How to Train Your Dragon knows what kind of movie it is. It doesn’t hold up to Pixar’s best, sure: it doesn’t try to break conventions, but instead manages to excel at them. It tells a story, albeit a simple one – it isn’t just a jumbled assortment of loud images designed to keep 5-year olds sated, though it does that too. But it managed to hold my attention, and for that, I think it’s worth a watch for anyone who still has the time to indulge in kid’s stuff. Too bad that DreamWorks’ next film is another bloody Shrek.
P.S. I watched it in 3-D, so I guess that’s worth a mention. Um… it’s still a gimmick and a fad. I would have enjoyed it at least as much in a normal theatre, probably even moreso since the effect is at times a distracting and annoying thing. Maybe it’s not as effective for me, who has to wear the bloody glasses on top of my own pair of prescription ones? I don’t really know, but frankly, I don’t care too much. I’m probably swearing off 3-D until the fad is over and done with, at least, unless Avatar manages to change my mind. Expect a review of that! Probably.
The Rating System:
* crap; in all likelihood, avoid
** meh; not quite worth your time
*** decent; nothing or not much new
**** good; polished, solid, give it a chance
***** great; among the best of its kind