Paramount Pictures presents an animated movie – How to Train Your Dragon – directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois. Co-written by William Davies, Peter Tolan, Sanders and DeBlois. Adapted from the novel by Cressida Cowell.
Running time: 98 minutes.
Rateing: PG (for scenes of intense action, some scary images and brief mild language).
Some movies seem born to inspire video games. All they lack is controllers and a scoring system. “How to Train Your Dragon” serves more like a game born to inspire a film. It devotes a great deal of time to aerial battles between tamed dragons and evil ones, and not much to character or story development. But it’s bright, good-looking and has high energy. Kids above the easily scared age will probably like the movie the younger they are.
How to Train Your Dragon is another action animation with an improbable young hero, based on a series of popular children’s books. Remember when the heroes in this genre were teenagers? Now it’s usually some kids who are 10 at the most, revealing themselves as stronger, smarter and braver than older people, and a quick learner when it comes to exploring or mastering a new form of warfare. We are born knowing how to command dragons and spaceships and down we forget as up we grow.
Our hero is Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (the voice of Jay Baruchel), a young Viking who lives in Berk, a mountainside village surrounded by the crags and aeries where hostile dragons live. Hiccup says that his village is very old, yet all of the houses are new. An alarming omen. Led by his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) and the dragon master Cobber (Craig Ferguson), the villagers have been in combat with the dragons since time immemorial. It would appear to be an unequal struggle; the dragons are gigantic and breathe fire, and the Vikings, while muscular, own only clubs, swords and spears. They may however be smarter than the dragons, although you wouldn’t know that just by listening to them.
Butler appears to be conjuring his character from “300,” beefed up by many a hearty Viking feast. He joins Ferguson and others in speaking English with a muscular Scottish accent, since as we all know that English was widely used among the Vikings. On the look, the Vikings seem victims of a testosterone outbreak causing immense sprouty growths of hair. Even the hair from their nostrils might knit up into a nice little sock. Oh, how I tried not to, but as I saw these brawlers saddled up on great flying, fire-breathing dragons, I kept thinking, “Asterix meets Avatar.”
The plot: Young Hiccup is required to stay inside when a dragon attack happens. But the plucky young child seizes a cannon, blasts away at the enemy and apparently wings one. Venturing into the forest to find his prey, he discovers a wounded little dragon about his age, already chained up. He releases it, they come together, and he realizes that dragons can be perfectly nice. With his new friend Toothless, he comes back to the village, and an alliance is formed with good dragons against the bad ones, who are snarly holdouts and grotesquely hideous.
One evil creature is covered all over with huge warlike knobs, and has six eyes, three on either side, looking like a classic Buick. In one notable sequence, a Viking hammers on an eyeball with his club. Not very appetizing. The battle ends as it must for all battle, with the bad guys fell and the youngest hero saving the day. The battle-one-the-sky scenes are storyboarded like a World War I dogfight, with swoops, climbs and narrowly missed collisions with craggy peaks and other dragons. For my taste, these went on way too long, but then I must teach myself that I do not have a 6-year-old’s taste.
Note: How to Train Your Dragon movie is being shown in both 3-D and 2-D. The 3-D adds nothing but the opportunity to pay more to see a distracting and unnecessary additional dimension. Paramount has threatened theaters that if they don’t clear screens for “How to Train Your Dragon” despite the current glut of 3-D movies, the studio won’t let them show it in 2-D. This displays real confid ence in 3-D.