HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
*** (out of 5)
March 26, 2010
Jay Baruchel a HICCUP
Gerard Butler as STOICK
Craig Ferguson as GOBBER
America Ferrera as ASTRID
Jonah Hill as SNOTLOUT
Christopher Mintz-Plase as FISHLEGS
Directed by: Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
DreamWorks takes another stab at Pixar-quality animation with their latest film, “How to Train Your Dragon,” which is also their second major animated film released in 3D (the first was last year’s far superior “Monsters vs. Aliens”), hoping to take advantage of the current craze and higher ticket prices.
In this new movie, a nerdy Viking kid named Hiccup lives in a village that is prone to constant dragon attacks. All the Vikings in the village wish to become fearless dragon hunters, but Hiccup just doesn’t have that dream. After wounding and eventually befriending a rare dragon, Hiccup learns that the beast has a heart and becomes its friend. By learning more about the dragons, Hiccup tries to bring a message of peace between the species.
Even before early reviews started to eke out on the internet following advanced screenings, there was a lot of good buzz generated on sites like Twitter, hailing this as a Pixar-worthy film. I, of course, had said this about “Kung Fu Panda” a couple years ago but still think DreamWorks blows hot and cold in the feature animation department. (After all, have you seen “Shark Tale”? That movie was lower than whale poo on the bottom of the ocean.)
My feelings for “How to Train Your Dragon” fall right in the middle. I didn’t love it, but I certainly didn’t hate it. There are a far worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon with your kids than seeing this movie.
On the positive side, “How to Train Your Dragon” is one of the first really decent dragon movies that have been released since CGI has allowed filmmakers to bring them to life on screen. (I’m not counting the Harry Potter movies in this list because while dragons are in them, they aren’t dragon films.) Still, this isn’t saying much. When your closest competition includes “Dragon Heart,” “Eragon,” “Reign of Fire” and “D-Wars,” you don’t have to be that good.
And to be honest, “How to Train Your Dragon” isn’t that good. It has some exciting moments featuring epic flying sequences and a fantastic dragon battle at the end of the film, and that pet dragon is one of the cutest thing I’ve seen all year. But there’s only about 30 minutes of action in the film. The rest of the movie is spent with Hiccup moping around the village and interacting with some of the most poorly animated supporting cast member I’ve seen in a major CGI movie this side of “Doogal.”
The message of the film, which overdone to death, is decent enough for kids. It’s about peace and tolerance, but I wonder how kids will react seeing the film a second time when the first dragon slaughter happens. Sheesh… that might be a bit traumatic for the little ones.
Another problem with this film is the cast. I don’t know who Jay Baruchel is sleeping with, but he managed to land the lead in this movie, and he sounds like nothing more than a poor-man’s Christian Slater. Add to this America Ferrera playing the most irritating love interest and all the adult Vikings speaking in forced Scottish accents, and you have a film that defies both raves and rants.
Still, the 3D sequences make it worth a trip to the IMAX to see it as it was meant to be presented, and the second half is definitely the stronger side of the film. Also, my kids thoroughly enjoyed it, and that’s what really matters when it comes to a movie like this.