Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon (Review)

     Slim picking at the theater this weekend.  I almost didn't go to see anything, but then I started to read things about DreamWorks' new offering.  Things like, it's darker than you'd think and you shouldn't take small children.  With nothing else playing locally and boredom setting in, that was enough to get me into a theater, and it was an enjoyable enough afternoon.  

     Based on children's books by Cressida Cowell, "How to Train Your Dragon" is about Hiccup, (yes, Hiccup, it is a kids story,) a young Viking who isn't exactly like his Viking brethren.  He's not strong, he's smart, and he lacks a lust for battle and death, though he does try to fit in.  He also lives on an island frequented by swarms of dragons.  Our young hero, through brains and determination, manages to down and cripple a dragon, but he does not have the heart to kill the beast.  Rather, he builds a prosthetic tail fin for the dragon, which allows the dragon to fly again, so long as Hiccup is riding and working the tail fin.  In the end, the village is saved, the dragons become welcome, and everyone learns a lesson about not killing stuff.  Oh, and there is some rather dark symmetry between Hiccup and his dragon. 

     Yes, this is, at heart, a kids movie, but it is not one that panders to children and throws in the occasional double entendre to keep parents awake.  The dragons aren't anthropomorphic and they don't talk.  They are animals.  Some are more intelligent than others, but they act like animals should.  The same goes for the people.  Adults act as adults should and so do the younger characters.  The story is, generally, predictable, but there are some surprising, and sometimes shocking, moments you won't see coming.  There are a few, intense battle sequences, but despite talk of people and dragons dying, you don't actual see any dead dragons or people, though some older Vikings do bear the marks of past battles, including missing limbs.  That is where the movie might not really be appropriate for younger children.  (That, and the ending!)  The 3-D isn't bad or distracting, but it is also useless.  It's noticeable in some of the flying scenes, but that's about it. 

     I don't normally go for this type of movie, children's films or anything about dragons, but "How to Train Your Dragon" has a real human side to it.  The story was predictable, but it wasn't boring and was just different enough to keep me interested through to the final, climactic, battle scene and it's dark, yet feel good epilogue.  There's no reason to rush out and see it in theaters, but, with what's in theaters now, you could do worse. 

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