With “real” Harry Potter fighting wizards all over the planet, what fun it is to have animated characters take on the big bad dragons that plagued Vikings for years.
Based on Cressida Cowell’s novel, co-directors Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders along with writer William Davies have fashioned a screenplay that is delightfully rich in subtext even as the monsters and weak (a great juxtaposition on its own: guess who team up?) amongst us turn out to be more misunderstood than reviled or mocked respectively.
The voice of Jay Baruchel makes for an endearing, skinny protagonist, Hiccup. His shamed father, Stoick, readily misses the fat joke but has just the right amount of bluster and mid-Atlantic blarney from Gerard Butler. The love interest, Astrid, is served up with a healthy mix of butch bravado and feminine wiliness by America Ferrara.
But the real star is Toothless: the Night Fury brand of fire-breathing devils. The art team (headed by Kathy Altieri and Pierre-Olivier Vincent) have inspired their legions of animators and visual effects magicians to bring a fully formed character into the mix of well-meaning (if misguided) humans going about the business of killing just because they always have.
Thank goodness that doesn’t happen anymore.
The music—acoustic and digital—is at one with the action, helping the pace keep moving even as the fortunes of the downtrodden are gradually, if predictably, reversed.
Given the hints of this opener, can’t wait for the sequel as Hiccup comes to grips with the festering differences in himself that make his aversion to wanton violence ring especially true. At least Astrid will always be a friend.
How to Train Your Dragon, like so many recent animated adventures—notably Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole which is really Star Wars Goes to Featherland—has its share of chases and fights, but manages to work in enough humanity to reward a viewing by those who enjoy a well-constructed “tail” in their plots. JWR