There are precious few films released each year that touch the soul in a way that’s not only affecting, but deeply emotional. Lately the only films that have that ability are animated features. Too often, though, animated fare resorts to the quick gag, gross-out joke, or pop-culture twist that is almost always forced and rarely fits within the tone of the film. I’m very happy to say that, with “How to Train You Dragon,” those downfalls are not even a consideration. Being a kid’s flick, I really didn’t have high expectations. However, I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed the movie!
Now at DreamWorks Animation, the directing team responsible for Disney’s Last Great 2D feature , “Lilo & Stitch,” Co-Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois have crafted a magnificent tale of adventure, courage, friendship, and sacrifice the resonates long after the credits roll. Rather than falling back on cheesy cliché and the gimmick of 3D, the team at DW use their glorious 3D canvas as a mere backdrop to the at-times dark story, phenomenal characters, and Grade-A animation.
“How to Train Your Dragon” tells the tale of Hiccup, a scrawny, brainy Viking in a village of fat, strong, not-so-bright Vikings. While all the other Vikings spend their days fighting dragons, or preparing to fight dragons, Hiccup is relegated to blacksmithing and general keep-out-of-the-way-ness. That is, until one night an invention of his takes down one of the most mysterious of the dragon species and Hiccup gets an up-close, first-person experience on what it really means to deal with dragons.
While the story certainly follows the Hero’s Journey to a tee, it is splashed with enough freshness and story-driven comedy to seem new and exciting. Sure it had that formulaic plot of saving another species that is supposed to make us think about how we treat other races, cultures, etc. but it had quite a few laughs and it was, well, I have to say, very cute, and the aerial camerawork is a marvel to behold. Some of the dragon characteristics reminded me of dogs, so that added to the fun of it. I’ll admit to never being sure why the adult Vikings all had Scottish accents (aren’t Vikings Scandinavian?) though, but it didn’t lessen the experience for me, as the film’s world is immersive enough (thanks, 3D) to bring you along for a visual ride with a story cue, belly laugh and dramatic beat here and there (which is FINE).
“Dragon” is, by far, the best film to ever come out of the DreamWorks Animation studio, and one that I look forward to seeing again, and again, very soon. You can’t expect pure genius with a movie like this, but it was definitely an entertaining and enjoyable film.