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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

How To Train Your Dragon

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How To Train Your Dragon

Who knew that fire spewing dragons could be so adorable?  Leave it to the magic of movie making wizards, who have audiences of all ages  falling in love with one particular dragon in Dreamwork's newest animated flick, How to Train Your Dragon. which lends a different prospective on these beastly creatures. As the lead character in this fantasy adventure exclaims, “Everything we know about dragons is wrong”,  and he proceeds to show us why.    

Dreamworks  Animation studios, the same film company that brought us Shrek, Madagascar, Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda, has yet another winner with the family friendly  How To Train Your Dragon, a charming, thoroughly engaging film presented in eye popping 3D.

Jay Baruchel, the skinny Canadian actor who stars in the recently released comedy, She's Out of My League, aptly lends his voice to the lead character that  is destined to be a hero. Based on the best selling children's book by Cressida Cowell, the story, set in ancient times, takes place in a Nordic village on the island of Berk and centers around a young teenage Viking named Hiccup (Baruchel), the scrawny, timid son of  the  village's tribal leader Stoick the Vast (perfectly cast Gerard Butler), a  big, brawny, thick bearded warrior who leads his men in battle against ongoing attacks by flying, flame spewing dragons and would like to kill them all.  Hiccup, a far cry from his father, is lean but definitely not mean. Although brainy, he has trouble living up to the macho expectations of his father.  Hiccup wants to be a dragon slayer to make his dad proud, but works as an apprentice to Globber,  the village blacksmith, (Late Late Show talk show host/comedian Craig Ferguson), who has lost an arm and a leg in battle with the dragons.

Everything in Hiccups world begins to change when he comes across a wounded dragon, who has lost half of his tail wing as the result of a sling shot attempt to slay the most fearsome and illusive dragon of them all, the one the viullagers have named Night Fury.  Instead of killing the sleek, black beast, Hiccup builds him a prosthetic wing to replace the lost one. He eventually gains his trust, develops a bond with the dragon he nicknames Toothless, is allowed to mount his back and soar through the skies, and soon realizes that dragons are misunderstood and not what they seem.  Keeping his relationship with his new dragon pet and his whereabouts a secret is not an easy task and it becomes harder after Hiccup is enrolled in Dragon Training where he meets up with several other wannabee teen warriors, Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plass), Ruffnutt (SNL's Kristin Wiig), Tuffnut ( J.T. Miller) and tough and fearless babe, Astrid (Ugly Betty's America Ferrera) who, of course is the love interest. During interactions with the captured dragons, Hiccup uses the knowledge and peaceful ways he learned by playing with Toothless to tame the creatures. Suddenly, after being regarded as a wimp and misfit, he is turned into a local celebrity...until his secret is revealed.

Everything about this film is a joy to behold. The vocal characterizations are terrific with both Butler and Ferguson taking full advantage of their Scottish accents by laying it on thick. Visually speaking, the film is a dazzler.  There are exciting action scenes, spectacular flying sequences (reminiscent of Avatar) and I was especially taken by the adorable characteristics of the animated dragon that really steals your heart.   How could you not fall for this cuddly creature with a face that looks more like a big kitty with its huge eyes and occasional purring than a ferocious, flame spewing, killer beast.  That is,  until he opens his mouth to roar and display some major teeth that can rip you apart.

The writer/director team of Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, who did the similar "Lilo & Stitch” deliver a heartfelt gem. While the central focus is a boy and his dragon, as the story unfolds there are also insightful messages about father/son relationships, the importance of brain over brawn and  preconceived notions about those we fear. So, not only is How To Train Your Dragon a touching, entertaining tale that is great to look at, it offers more than meets the eye.

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