Just forget the words and sing along

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Animated Film Catch-Up: How to Train Your Dragon

For those just joining us, I'm currently in the middle of another Animated Film Catch-Up, in which I rent all the animated movies I had a mild interested in seeing and finally see them.  For 2011, we're starting off with....

How to Train Your Dragon

Animation Studio and Best Known Franchise:  Dreamworks Animation; Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda.

Directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois

Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Jonah Hill. 

The Source of My Mild Interest:  It's well-known that I'm a Pixar fanboy.  I think I started looking down on Dreamworks when I saw Shrek 2, which I still maintain is the most godawful animated film ever made.  But you know, How to Train Your Dragon got so many good reviews.  It's phenomenal how many good reviews it got.  I dare say it's Dreamworks best-reviewed film to date.  Something like that, I just had to check it out.  Plus, also, it was directed by Chris Sanders.  Sanders directed the Disney film Lilo and Stitch, and when he quit Disney and set up shop at Dreamworks, it was a quite well-publicized event.  It's one of those things where I'm still not sure if he quit or if he was fired, but he's at Dreamworks now and How to Train Your Dragon was his first assignment. 

Plot:  The Viking village of Berk is constantly under attack by dragons.  One young Viking named Hiccup wants nothing more than to be one of the dragon slayers, but he's wimpy, nerdy, and a bit of an inventor.  During one raid, one of Hiccup's inventions actually manages to wound a dragon, a viscious and feared night fury.  Hiccup finds it, but can't bring himself to kill it.  He begins nursing him back to health, and dubs him Toothless.  The knowledge Hiccup gains with Toothless enables him to become a skilled dragon fighter, as he learns how to easily pacify dragons.  But, a war is brewing, as Stoick, the leader of Berk (and Hiccup's father), vows to find the dragons' nest and end this once and for all.  Soon, Hiccup is torn between his father and his new friend.  Can Hiccup do what it takes to bring peace to the Vikings and the dragons? 

What I Liked:  I have to agree with several other blogs I've read online.  The cynicism that once dominated all Dreamworks films seems to finally be melting away, and in its place, we're getting genuine emotion.  Don't get me wrong, the plot is still formulaic as hell, but I actually found myself caring for these characters.  The struggle between Hiccup and Stoick, as they actually struggle to find a connection as father and son, is very genuine.  Plus, there is some fantastic animation at play, especially in the flying scenes.  And, as I remarked when I saw the very first trailer, I like that Toothless was very obviously modeled after a cat.

What I Didn't Like:  As I said, the plot is formulaic as hell.  Dreamworks really knows what works for them, and they don't deviate that much.  And for the life of me, I still can't figure out how the Vikings are Scottish and all their kids are American. 

Final Verdict:  Wow.  When I did this a year ago with Kung Fu Panda, I was pleasantly surprised, I really enjoyed MegaMind, and How to Train Your Dragon flat-out blew me away.  Nice to see that Dreamworks is finally starting to kick things up a bit. 

3.5 Nibs

Time to break for supper.  We'll probably do Despicable Me next.  

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