How to Train Your DragonBy Karen Wilson
MPAA Rating: PG for scenes of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language
Release Date: March 26, 2010
Running Time: 1 hour and 38 minutes
Plot Synopsis: As a Viking living on the island of Berk, the teenage Hiccup doesn't really fit in. He's skinny, clumsy and awkward -- and when it comes killing dragons like his fellow Vikings, he's a failure. But when he devises a special cannon, Hiccup is able to bring down a particularly feared species of dragon, but cannot deliver the final blow to kill him. Instead, the dragon and the boy strike up a friendship; Hiccup names him Toothless and invents a way for them to fly together.
In return, Toothless teaches Hiccup all of his secrets and Hiccup begins to ace his dragon fighting classes, much to the amazement of his female classmate Astrid, his teacher Gobber, and his proud father Stoick, who leads their Viking clan. But with graduation of dragon fighting school fast approaching Hiccup knows his final exam will involve finally slaying a dragon and he doesn't know if he can.
Sex/Nudity: A romance develops between Astrid and Hiccup and at the end of the movie she kisses him. Stoick gives Hiccup a Viking hat that he says used to be a part of Hiccup's mother's breastplate. This discussion of breasts is clearly very embarrassing for both father and son.
Violence/Gore: Dragons, setting fire to many buildings and sending the inhabitants running in fear, attack the village. Gobber and the dragon manual teach Hiccup all about dragons, telling him they will always go for the kill and should be killed on sight. As part of training, Hiccup and the other teenage Vikings must go up against various dragons in training arenas. Astrid hits Hiccup when she discovers he's lied to her. Hiccup, Astrid and Toothless fly to the dragon's nest and discover the dinosaur-sized vicious dragon living there. In the final battle, Toothless and Hiccup attack the giant dragon, exploding him into a giant fireball and then falling into the inferno.
Profanity: A few mild jokes about Gobber being so scared he needs to bring extra underwear along.
Which Kids Will Like It? Pre-teen boys and girls should enjoy the thrilling action scenes and cute dragon training. Some of the high stakes scenes might be too intense for impressionable young children.
Will Parents Like It? Adults should appreciate the beautiful animation and the entertaining story. Just don't start questioning why some of the Vikings are speaking with thick Scottish accents and others with an American lilt.
Kaboose Review: 3-D seems to be taking over the movie-going universe these days. With the success of Avatar, Up, and Coralinethis past year, more studios are releasing their big budget family entertainment with the new technology. You might think that Dreamworks seem to be just jumping on the bandwagon making their newest animated feature How to Train Your Dragon available in 3-D, but the fantastic action sequences and jaw-dropping flying scenes are perfect for this enhanced movie medium--plus the story of a geeky Viking and his pet dragon is pretty darn cute as well.
How to Train Your Dragon is based very loosely on a series of children's novels written by British author Cressida Cowell. In the film version, dragons on the Viking island of Berk are a total menace. These fire-breathing pests swoop in on the village at night, carrying off livestock and setting buildings ablaze. The chief Stoick (voiced with the thickest version of his native Scottish brogue by Gerard Butler) is their best dragon fighter while his son Hiccup (She's Out of My League's Jay Baruchel) is a total disaster. Understandably this causes a lot of friction between the father and son. But when Hiccup uses his skills of observation and ingenuity to tame and befriend a misunderstood dragon, it's a real triumph for those of us who appreciate the use of brain over brawn.
Complimenting this charming, thoughtful story is some truly stunning animation. Hiccup teaches his maimed dragon Toothless to fly again by fashioning an artificial fin on his tail that Hiccup can operate. As the two learn to soar through the air together, the 3-D technology does an amazing job of putting the viewer right into the action and will literally keep you on the edge of your seat.
The movie culminates in a big showdown between the Vikings aided by their new dragon friends and a giant dinosaur-like dragon that's been terrorizing them all. Hiccup and his dad finally learn to understand one another and the other teenage Vikings who used to pick on Hiccup now respect him. But without giving everything away, there's a slightly dark coda that shows that sacrifices were made in this epic Viking versus dragon struggle. It's refreshing to see family entertainment that doesn't need sugarcoat every detail and yet can still leave you smiling as you walk out the theater.
Directed by: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
Cast: Jay Baruchel (voice of Hiccup), Gerard Butler (voice of Stoick), Craig Ferguson (voice of Gobber), America Ferrera (voice of Astrid), Jonah Hill (voice of Snotlout), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (voice of Fishlegs), Kristen Wiig (voice of Ruffnut), T.J. Miller (voice of Tuffnut)
Movie poster courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Karen Wilson is a freelance writer living in New York City.